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10/02/06 6:10 PM ET

Notes: Johnson in line for Game 3

Feels no abnormal stiffness on day after bullpen session

NEW YORK -- Yankees left-hander Randy Johnson continues to pass tests in his quest to pitch with a herniated disc in Game 3 of the American League Division Series. Johnson didn't have any abnormal stiffness Monday, a day after throwing a side session. He expects to take the ball on Friday night at Comerica Park.

Asked if he felt he'd be good to go for Game 3, Johnson nodded and said, "Yeah, I'm going to throw on the side on Wednesday."

Though Wednesday's bullpen session will be the final hurdle, the Yankees plan on the Big Unit taking the ball when the series shifts to Detroit.

"Randy did work in the weight room today," said Yankees manager Joe Torre. "He will play a little catch [Tuesday]. He's on the roster. We anticipate he's going to pitch on Friday. Again, I mean is he going to be, you know, as healthy as he's ever been? Probably not. But is he going to be healthy enough to pitch? We feel he will be."

Johnson labored over his last three starts, posting a 7.64 ERA over that span. But the Yankees feel that he'll be helped by the epidural shot he took last Friday.

"[He'll] probably be better than the last three or four starts because evidently he was pitching in spite of stuff during that time," said Torre.

Johnson finished the season 17-11 with a 5.00 ERA. Lifetime in the postseason, he is 7-8 with a 3.28 ERA.

In other rotation news, Torre said no decision has been made on who would start a potential Game 4. Jaret Wright and Cory Lidle would be the candidates.

Less 'Mo this October: Mariano Rivera's role in this postseason? He will be Torre's ninth-inning guy, pure and simple.

"Yeah, we're going into to the postseason with Mariano being a ninth-inning pitcher," Torre said. "We feel we have enough support leading up to him to be able to do this."

Rivera missed three weeks in September with a muscle strain in his right forearm.

The Yankees will rely heavily on Kyle Farnsworth and Scott Proctor to get through the eighth inning. Lefty specialist Mike Myers will be used to get key lefties before the ninth.

Don't expect Rivera to be called on in the eighth inning as he has in so many instances during October. Don't expect him to turn in the type of three-inning masterpiece that occurred in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS against the Red Sox.

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"We're talking ninth inning for Mariano," Torre said.

A first for Sheffield: This will be Gary Sheffield's first October as a first baseman. In fact, Sheffield learned the position on the fly in the season's final month, starting nine games there after returning from a wrist injury on Sept. 22.

With Sheffield at first, Torre can use Jason Giambi as his designated hitter and go with an outfield of Hideki Matsui in left, Johnny Damon in center and Bobby Abreu in right.

"I had concerns earlier, but I feel like I experienced certain things and got it under my belt," Sheffield said. "Once that happens, you kind of relax on the baseball field, and I'm not different than anyone else from that aspect. I'm not afraid to fail at anything. I'm working hard at learning this position the best I can in 10 days. Now it matters and I have to be ready for the task."

The Yankees have full confidence he will be.

"He's more than adequate," said Torre. "He does fine. The fact that he started his career in the Major League level in the infield -- we felt that he could do that. Don Mattingly, who is as good as they come, Larry Bowa, myself, you know, we started these classes, I guess you can say, in Toronto. He just seems to be getting more and more comfortable. He's not afraid of making a mistake -- he has a feel for the game. We just feel with all our options over there, he's probably our best one."

Surprise opponent: The Yankees had come to expect as the regular season wound down that they'd be facing the Twins in the Division Series and not the Tigers. But all of that changed when the Tigers were swept by the Royals, making them the Wild Card winner instead of the AL Central champs.

Of course, the Yankees weren't too broken up about having to open their postseason against American League Cy Young Award favorite Johan Santana. But they were respectful toward the Tigers, who are sure to be looked at as major underdogs in this series.

"We thought we'd be facing Johan a couple of times, but now we're facing the Tigers," said Damon. "It kind of just changed what we were thinking for a couple of days. [Santana's] a great pitcher, but Detroit has some great pitchers also."

Instead of Santana, the Yankees will face Nate Robertson.

"Robertson is pretty solid," Damon said. "He doesn't get as much credit as he should, but he knows how to pitch. He's not scared, he throws a cutter, a two seamer, some nice offspeed pitches. He battles. I like his makeup."

Mike Mussina, a veteran postseason performer, knows that pre-series prognostications mean close to nothing.

"Anything can happen in a five-game series, anything can happen in a seven-game series, whether you're a bunch of kids or a bunch of veterans," said Mussina, who will start Game 2. "That's not a lot of baseball. One team gets hot, another team gets cold, you make one or two mistakes, it could change the whole series. We have to try to make as few mistakes as possible, have everybody going in the right direction, pitch well, get big hits, do what we've been doing all year."

Super sub? Melky Cabrera, a key player for the Yankees this season when many players were injured, will come off the bench during the postseason.

"I felt he was important for us whenever he plays or doesn't play because he can come off the bench," said Torre. "Ability-wise, I think he can come off the bench because of the fact that he's a switch-hitter. He doesn't sem to find the circumstance that scares him and he has got some speed. He can do a lot of things for you and he seems to still be having fun."

Cabrera hit .280 with seven homers and 50 RBIs in 460 at-bats.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.