Billy Martin, the New York Yankees' manager says his best pitcher, Don Gulett, has a shoulder injury and probably won't pitch again this season.

Which is new to Gullett.

Although he was taken out of today's game after giving up four runs in two innings against Kansas City. Gullett said his early exit was caused only by a failure to get loose.

"I don't know why not," the lefthander said when someone asked him if he would be able to pitch again in this American League championship series.

So a newspaperman, confused by all this, went back to Martin and said Gullett says he's not hurt.

"I'm just saying what the doctor told me." Martin snapped, sitting at his office desk,just below a bookshelf featuring Leo Durocher's biography. "Nice Guys Finish Last." "You can write whatever you want. Gullett's arm is bothering him and he probably won't pitch the rest of the year."

Earlier, Martin had said the injury "is the same one he had before." Gullett missed six weeks with a sore shoulder. Martin, reminding everyone he is no doctor, said he couldn't remember the medical terminology involved. "But it's just as bad as before."

"I didn't feel good in the bullpen," Gullett said. "I didn't have good stuff out there. I just couldn't get loose. I didn't have any velocity."

The Royals' 7-2 victory today - achieved in the first of two games at Yankee Stadium, with the best-of-five series to wind up in Kansas City - gives them an overwhelming advantage, particularly if Gullett can't come back.

"I'd like another shot," Gullett said. "I'm not giving up."

Strange, very strange

Here's a major league manager saying his best pitcher has the same injury that put him out for six weeks. Meanwhile, the pitcher says he's not hurt. So a newspaperman, confused, seeks out the Yankee trainer, Gene Monohan, who says, "There wasn't anything specifically wrong with Don. He just wasn't right."

Oh, well. What would Yankee Stadium be like if sanity broke loose?Martin is making jokes about the owner . . . The owner would like to drop something heavy on the manager's tongue . . . A 12-year-old kid is suing Reggie Jackson for $2 million . . . And today Lou Piniella came down with a case of the self-admitted dumbs.

Already ahead, 2-0, Kansas City scored two more runs in the second inning when Piniella, the left fielder, misunderstood an umpire's signal and allowed a runner to score from first base on a hit that didn't go 250 feet from home plate.

Fred Patek struck a ground ball down the third base line. The ball bounced off the bleacher wall and toward Piniella in left. Left-field umpire Nick Bremigan gave the "safe" signal, indicating the ball was in play.

"So I'm just standing there with the sweet baseball in my hand and I'm watching the sweet runner," said Piniella, whose choice of adjectives has been cleaned up here. "The runner is between short and third, and I'm looking at the umpire, and he's giving some sign, so I think it's a ground rule double. So I just stand there, y'know what I mean, Reggie?"

Reggie Jackson, a beer in hand, a $2 million lawsuit overhead, sat on a leather couch in the Yankees' clubhouse. Jackson leaned back against a concrete wall and looked at Piniella. Jackson looked and looked. He didn't say anything. Why say anything when the guy already knows his head was temporarily full of rocks?

"It was just a mistake on my part," Piniella shouted to reporters who, by team rule, couldn't enter the players' lounge. "I'm not getting paid to think, I'm getting paid to do. Right, Reggie?"

Jackson, in reply, took a drink of beer.

Every baseball game develops a personality of its own, and it is our melancholy duty to report that today's game had all the wit, charm and magic of a hockey puck.

The Royals had eight base runners the first three innings and six scored. With pitcher Paul Splittorff allowing the Yankees no more than four hitters an inning after that, the game's only excitement came in the bleachers, where at least three fistfights took place.

In the most spectacular of these nose-bashings, a New York policeman shoved a long-haired young man five or six times until the fellow fell backwards onto the concrete steps. Back on his feet, the young man hooked his arms around a railing and wouldn't leave the stadium. The way the Yankee were going, no one could figure out his reluctance, unless he'd left a beer back at his seat.

"They beat the hell out of us," Jackson said. "When they get up 6-0, what are you going to do? That lets them relax and puts all the pressure on us. Everytime up, you know you have to produce."

Then Jackson said a confusing thing.

"I don't like it (being a game behind), but I'll probably play better. But I don't like it."

Got that?

The $2.9 million right fielder doesn't like the pressure of being behind. Once behind, however, he'll probably play better. Which makes you wonder why he doesn't play that well when the team's ahead. Or is he being paid to play well only when the Yankees are behind?$

Oh, well.