Pavano still shaky, but staying healthy
The right-hander had given up back-to-back singles to Ryan Freel and Josh Hamilton to open the game and loaded the bases when a Brandon Phillips grounder glanced off shortstop Derek Jeter's glove for an infield hit.
Pavano, however, never wavered and, in the end, silenced any lingering questions about his health.
Facing Adam Dunn, Pavano went ahead in the count 1-2 and got Dunn to fly out to right field, not quite deep enough to score Freel from third base. Three pitches later, Edwin Encarnacion grounded into a 6-4-3 double play that ended the inning and seemed to calm Pavano down for the duration of his start.
"That's a big inning because I didn't think I gave up a hard-hit ball, they were balls that were just well-placed," Pavano said.
Pavano wasn't overly impressive in going 4.1 innings, giving up three runs (all earned) on eight hits with two walks and two strikeouts, but both he and New York manager Joe Torre seemed pleased with the progress the pitcher made since his last appearance March 17 in Clearwater against Philadelphia (in 3 innings or relief, Pavano allowed two earned runs on four hits with four walks).
"It was definitely an improvement from my last start," Pavano said. "At times I was a little wild; at times I was pretty consistent. I'm looking to improve on it and keep moving forward."
"Today was really good considering how deep we are into spring training," Torre said. "It just looked like he was out there competing. He got himself in trouble, he had a couple misplays but he just looked very determined today."
Pavano had a rather routine second and third inning he gave up just one hit to David Ross in the second on a ball Jason Giambi, playing first base rather than DH-ing, could have made a play on but mistakenly went to cover the bag before getting into problems in the fourth.
In that inning, Pavano walked Javier Valentin with one out and gave up a single to Ross. Paul Janish followed and hit a 2-1 pitch to deep right field where Bobby Abreu, getting his first start of the spring in right field, had trouble judging the ball in the wind and allowed it to drop. Valentin, however, thinking the ball would be caught by Abreu, had to hold up at second base and what looked to be a sure 2-RBI, double turned into a long single that scored nobody.
The pitcher, Kyle Lohse, followed and hit a grounder between first and second base that rolled past the Yankees drawn-in infield to score two runs. Pavano got the next batter, Freel, to hit into a 6-4-3 double play to escape again without anymore damage being inflicted.
"I thought he was real good," Torre said. "We didn't help him defensively. He had a lot more life today, I thought, on his fastball.
"This is what we hoped we'd see, and he certainly hasn't let us down."
"The ball was moving a lot, so you know he's gained some arm strength when the ball's doing that," Posada said. "I was very happy with the way he threw the ball."
Pavano came out to start the fifth inning and recorded an out before giving up a hit to Phillips. At that point, Torre pulled the 31-year-old, who had reached 73 pitches. Before the game, the Yankees manager indicated he would give Pavano roughly 75.
"My pitch count got up, I feel good coming out of it, so I'm looking forward to getting my work in and getting out there and getting my pitch count back up again," Pavano said. "[Next time out] I just want to see my pitch count definitely get up to 100 and, obviously, go deeper into the game get through the hitters the third or fourth time through and mix up the pitches a little more."
Torre seemed to indicate he thinks Pavano, who will receive at least one, possibly two more starts this Spring, will be fully ready for his turn in the rotation once the season begins.
"We're definitely counting on him," Torre said. "The spot was his to have, and he certainly has seized the opportunity. We, obviously, favored his taking that spot and everything he's had to deal with the last couple of years we're very pleased with what we've seen.
"I think if anything went wrong now it'd be more of a surprise."