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Yankees' Johnson sits out with stiff lower back

Infielder Nick Johnson #26 of the New York

Infielder Nick Johnson #26 of the New York Yankees celebrates a run against the Pittsburgh Pirates. (March 3, 2010) Photo Credit: Getty Images

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Those who had March 4 in their Nick Johnson injury pool, step forward to collect your winnings.

Johnson, slotted to play first and bat second for the Yankees Thursday against the Phillies, was a late scratch because of lower back stiffness.

"He said he could have played," Joe Girardi said, "but we might give him tomorrow [off], too, just to make sure he's not irritating something that lingers."

Johnson, able to play more than 100 games only four times in eight seasons, tweaked his back during batting practice when a spike caught in the artificial turf mat covering the dirt.

"I usually just wear my turfs [during BP]," Johnson said. "For some reason I put my spikes on it. It wasn't a good idea."

Johnson has had his share of fluke injuries and this one, though it doesn't appear serious, is another. He said he's confident the issue won't be a long-term one, adding: "I'm not really worried about that."

Chamberlain/Hughes I

Joba Chamberlain, whose Tuesday bullpen session was pushed to Wednesday because of flu-like symptoms, still is scheduled to pitch Friday against the Rays. He'll follow Phil Hughes, the first act of the Yankees' biggest story to this point.

Girardi has tried to downplay the competition, at least early in camp. "No one's going to be our fifth starter by their first time through the rotation," he said. "But they're going to be competitive, there's no doubt about it."

Extra bases

Boone Logan pitched 11/3 scoreless innings and did not allow a baserunner . . . The Yankees scored twice in the ninth for a 2-1 lead, but Wilkins Arias allowed two runs in the bottom of the inning . . . Royce Ring was excused from camp because his wife went into labor.


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