Karsten's elbow could hand Pavano Opening Day start

Updated: March 25, 2007, 5:13 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

TAMPA, Fla. --Carl Pavano would be honored to start on Opening Day for the New York Yankees. More importantly, he is just excited to be pitching again.

Carl Pavano

Pavano is considered the front-runner to face Tampa Bay on April 2 at Yankee Stadium. Unlike the other candidates for the assignment, Kei Igawa and Jeff Karstens, Pavano would not require significant changes in his pitching schedule to be ready.

The Yankees will meet to discuss the issue Monday, and a decision could be made at that time, as reported by ESPN.com's Buster Olney.

"Obviously, it's exciting. It's Opening Day," Pavano said Sunday. "The fans have been waiting since the end of '06 for the start of '07, and so have we."

Karstens' bid might have ended when he left after two innings Sunday against Detroit with right elbow stiffness. He allowed six runs and six hits before departing.

"Anytime you have a problem, it worries you a little bit," Karstens said. "I never really got loose. If I'm not 100 percent healthy, I can't really help them anyway."

Pavano hasn't pitched in the majors since June 2005 due to a variety of injuries. The chance to make his return on Opening Day came about after Chien-Ming Wang and Andy Pettitte were both hurt last week.

"Unfortunately, some of the best pitchers on our staff are now injured," Pavano said. "With the turn in events, if I get the opportunity, it's my time to pick up some slack. I'm glad that I'm able to be there to do that."

Pavano will make his final spring training start Tuesday against Minnesota. That lines up him for the Devil Rays game with just one extra day of rest.

"I've liked what I've seen from him," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "Not only stuff on the mound, but his whole demeanor. I think it would be a progression if he was the one. I don't think it would make any kind of statement other than we're comfortable where he is."

Pavano's teammates, however, are aware of what the opening-day assignment could mean for him.

"I know what it's like to be trying to pick yourself up," Yankees slugger Jason Giambi said. "I hope he embraces it. This is a chance for him to stand up front and just show everyone the kind of pitcher he is. I'm excited for him, and I hope he's excited about it if he gets that opportunity. This is a big chance for him."

Pettitte played catch for the third straight day after being sidelined last Monday by back spasms. He is scheduled for a bullpen session Monday.

"It's feeling better," Pettitte said.

Torre said it's doubtful Pettitte would pitch Wednesday. The left-hander might start a minor league game Friday.

Wang, who will the start the season on the disabled list with a strained right hamstring, made 70 throws in the outfield. Some were from about 120 feet.

A 19-game last season, he was hurt while running Friday. He is expected to be out until at least late April.

"Not that bad," Wang said. "Walking [Friday] was sore. Today, nothing."

Wang could increase his workouts this weekend.

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this story.