Phoenix It took 11 years for Mike Mussina to reach the World Series. And it took signing with the Yankees as a free agent to accomplish it.
Mussina, 32, will start Game One for the Yankees tonight against Arizona's Curt Schilling.
"Sometimes you have to wait awhile," he said. "And sometimes you get a chance to go every year, like (Derek) Jeter. He thinks it's part of the deal."
Mussina, as is his custom, would not express much emotion about the significance of the series-opening start. Asked what it meant, he matter-of-factly stated: "It means that Joe (Torre) has enough confidence in me to let me go out there and start the first game. It means I get to pitch on the road. That's what it means.
"In this situation, every game is important the first game or any other game of this series. They're very important games. I'm not looking at it like I'm the first of anything. It's just my turn to pitch."
While Jeter's shovel pass to Jorge Posada in Game Three of the division series against Oakland will be considered the defining moment, Mussina's seven shutout innings in the 1-0 win also proved critical.
Mussina then pitched Game Two of the ALCS, limiting Seattle to two earned runs in six innings in the Yankees' 3-2 win. He has allowed only three earned runs in his past 28 postseason innings.
"Anybody else on the staff could have gone out and done that," Mussina said of the Oakland start, when the Yankees trailed in the series 2-0. "It just happened to be my turn."
Mussina, despite no World Series experience, has already proved his Game One worthiness to his teammates.
"It's not like this is all new to him," outfielder Paul O'Neill said. "He's pitched playoff games. He obviously changed that Oakland series, where everybody was ready to send us home and he goes out and throws a shutout. He's going to do the same things that he did throughout the year, and that's pitch well and give us a chance to win."
Mussina could be locked in a tight contest with Schilling. The lack of run support he pitched with during the regular season may prove ample preparation.