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Karstens rocked, leaves game early with elbow stiffness

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Yankees right-hander Jeff Karstens left his start against the Tigers on Sunday after two innings with stiffness in his pitching elbow.

"I didn't want to push it too much and have something really [bad] happen," the 24-year-old said.

Karstens is making a bid to secure a spot as the fifth starter in the Yankees' rotation, which already suffered one major blow this weekend when ace Chien-Ming Wang strained his right hamstring Friday during conditioning exercises.

Karstens threw 46 pitches in his start against Detroit, allowing six runs on six hits in two innings, including a three-run homer to Gary Sheffield. Karstens said he revealed the injury to catcher Todd Pratt after the second inning, before informing manager Joe Torre and pitching coach Ron Guidry.

"I never really got loose," Karstens said. "Anytime you've got something wrong, it kind of worries you a little bit."