NEW YORK (AP) – Kevin Brown went on the disabled list Thursday for the 14th time in his career, and the New York Yankees pitcher will go to California to be examined by back expert Dr. Robert Watkins.

Brown has a lumbar strain, according to the Yankees. Watkins operated on Brown in June 2002 to repair a disc in the nerve canal of the pitcher’s lower back, and the Yankees are unsure whether Brown will be sidelined for the rest of the season.

“Hopefully in the next 24, 48 hours we’ll have more of a clue to that,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said before New York beat Minnesota 6-3. “Hopefully that’s not the case because I know that’s certainly not what he wants, and it’s certainly not what we want or need. But, as I say, his physical well being is No. 1 here. I really – I don’t know what the answer is. I have to really get the doctors to tell me.”

Brown, 40, is 4-7 with a 6.50 ERA in 13 starts this season. The five-time All-Star was on the DL from April 3-17 and June 18-July 18 with a strained back, then returned this month without a rehab start and allowed 13 runs in 7 2-3 innings during starts at Texas and the Los Angeles Angels. He was examined by Dr. Yechiel Kleen in Colorado, who spoke this week with Yankees physician Dr. Stuart Hershon.

“He’s bothered by this whole thing because first off, he obviously wants to help here,” Torre said. “But secondly, he’s not well at this point in time.”

Brown has been on the DL 10 times since December 1998, when he was given a $105 million, seven-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who traded him to the Yankees in December 2002. He was 41-19 in his first three years after signing the first $100 million deal in baseball history but has gone 31-26 since.

New York made the roster move retroactive to July 24, the day after Brown’s last appearance. The Yankees did not immediately fill the roster spot, debating whether to bring up a pitcher or a position player.

Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre said if New York doesn’t acquire a starter, a string of relievers could be used Saturday against the Angels.

“We’ll probably, if we have to, we’ll treat it like a spring training game,” he said. “You try to pitch two or three guys two or three innings each unless something happens by Saturday.”

With Brown sidelined along with Carl Pavano, Jaret Wright and Chien-Ming Wang, who all have shoulder injuries, New York has brought up Aaron Small and acquired Al Leiter to join Randy Johnson and Mike Mussina in the rotation. Hideo Nomo, signed to a minor league contract this week, needs work and won’t be available this weekend, Torre said.

Pavano made his first injury rehabilitation start Wednesday and will make at least one more.

“He wants to get back here like everybody does when they go to Tampa for a period of time and have to deal 95, 100 (degrees) every day,” Torre said.

Wright, out since April, is scheduled to make his first rehab start Saturday. Outfielder Ruben Sierra, who has a strained left hamstring, is likely to start a rehab assignment this weekend. The earliest he could be activated is Wednesday.


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