Yankees tab Pavano as Opening Day starter

Updated: March 30, 2007, 5:38 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

TAMPA, Fla. -- Carl Pavano will be the New York Yankees' Opening Day starter -- his first time on the mound in the majors since June 2005.

You've Come A Long Way, Baby
Carl Pavano

Carl Pavano might be considered the unlikeliest of Yankee pitchers to draw an Opening Day start. A brief history of his travails in pinstripes since signing for $39.95 million in 2004:

• April 10: Gets hit on the head by a line drive. A CT scan and neurological tests are normal. He makes his next scheduled start.
• July 2: Will skip a scheduled start due to shoulder soreness. Eventually goes on the 15-day DL.
• Aug. 7: Will visit Dr. James Andrews, who later determines the pitcher has rotator cuff tendinitis and needs six weeks of rest and rehab. Pavano doesn't pitch again in 2005. Season totals: 17 starts, 100 IP, 4-6, 4.77 ERA.

• March 31: Starts the season on the DL because of a back injury. Earlier in the month, slipped on grass during a spring game and bruised his buttocks.
• May 17: Leaves a rehab start because of right arm soreness.
• May 19: Needs surgery for a bone chip above his right elbow.
• Aug. 28: Yankees learn Pavano has two broken ribs, the result of crashing his Porsche in Florida. He initially does not tell the team about the accident.
• Aug. 30: Ruled out of rejoining the team in '06.

• Feb. 2: Says he's healthy and ready to pitch again in the majors.
• Feb. 10: Mike Mussina says Pavano "needs to show a lot of people that he wants to go out there and pitch for us." When asked how much work Pavano had to do to regain the trust and respect of his teammates, manager Joe Torre responds, "It's sizable." Pavano takes the criticism in stride.
• March 9: A Florida man involved in the car accident with Pavano sues him for injuries allegedly sustained in the crash.
• March 10: Pavano rejoins the team one day after missing a scheduled spring training start because of a "severe medical condition" involving his girlfriend.
• March 30: Quoted in the New York Post, model Gia Allemand says she's ended a rocky one-year romance with Pavano. "We're taking some time apart," she says.
• March 30: Joe Torre picks Pavano to pitch the Yankees' Opening Day game against the Devil Rays. It will be Pavano's first outing in the majors since June 27, 2005.

Pavano will be followed in the rotation by Andy Pettitte, Mike Mussina and Kei Igawa. The fifth starter spot for the beginning of the season is expected to be filled by Darrell Rasner, who was told that he made the team.

Pavano has been out for almost two years because of a variety of injuries.

"It's going to be pretty exciting," a smiling Pavano said. "Who wouldn't be excited at this opportunity? It's a good day."

New York manager Joe Torre made the announcement Friday.

Pavano got the assignment after injuries to Pettitte and Chien-Ming Wang. Pettitte was scheduled to pitch for the first time since experiencing back spasms March 19 in a minor league game Friday.

Torre said the delay in naming the Opening Day starter was because the Yankees considered having Pettitte make the start.

"I know there have been some questions asked of me, what are you trying to do, something instead of Pavano?" Torre said. "That wasn't the case. We thought for a time there that Andy could be the opening-day starter. When we talked about it yesterday, it was the fact in order for him to be the opening-day starter, he was initially going to face six hitters [Friday] and then start Monday. Probably could have done it, but probably better off if he had more work."

Pavano is 61-64 with a 4.27 career ERA in 184 major league appearances for the Montreal Expos, Florida Marlins and Yankees. He was 4-6 in 2005.

Pavano signed with the Yankees after a 2003 season in which he went 18-8 for the Marlins and 2-0 in the postseason as they beat New York in the World Series.

Drafted by Boston in 1994, Pavano was one of two prospects the Red Sox dealt to the Expos for Pedro Martinez in 1997.

Wang is expected to be out until at least late April with a pulled right hamstring. He threw for the first time off a half-mound, making 20 throws each to a catcher positioned in front and behind the plate.

I feel better than expected," Wang said.

Torre also said Josh Phelps beat out Andy Phillips at first base. The manager didn't rule out Phelps starting against Tampa Bay left-hander Scott Kazmir in Monday's season opener at Yankee Stadium.

Phelps and lefty hitting Doug Mientkiewicz are expected to platoon at first.

Wil Nieves won the backup catcher spot over Todd Pratt, who said he would try to hook on with another team after being informed of the move.

Pratt missed time early in spring training with a heel injury.

Nieves has played just 37 major league games in his career.

"I'm excited," Nieves said. "This is the opportunity I've been looking for. I'm going to take advantage of it. I'm going to work hard."

Sean Henn claimed the second left-handed reliever spot.

Ron Villone, who was competing with Henn, said he was asked by the Yankees to join Triple-A Scranton. The left-hander said he will make a decision later Friday or Saturday.

Torre said right-hander Jeff Karstens, who left a start last Sunday with right elbow stiffness, likely will start the season on the disabled list. He threw on flat ground at 90 feet.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.