Sports Outside the Beltway

Pavano to start Opening Day?!

Andy Pettitte and Chien-Ming Wang continued to make progress, and tests on Jeff Karstens sore elbow were “normal,” the team said.

“Today was a better day than yesterday,” general manager Brian Cashman said.

Still unanswered: if Pettitte will be ready for the first turn of the rotation; whether Karstens will be healthy enough to fill in for Wang; and who will start Opening Day — or any day thereafter, for that matter.

“We’re a little limited right now on options for our rotation,” manager Joe Torre said. “We’ve got some of it figured out. It’s sort of like a puzzle. We’re going to have to fill in spots that we were hoping we wouldn’t have to fill in.”

While Karstens, who had to come out of his start Sunday with elbow stiffness, was undergoing an MRI and CT scan yesterday morning, Pettitte was throwing 25 pitches in the bullpen.

“I felt real good,” he said. “I’d say that was normal, pretty much, effort for a bullpen.

“I felt like I was able to throw it free and easy. That’s as good as I could expect.”

It was Pettitte’s first work off a mound since March 17 because of back spasms, and he is scheduled for another side session tomorrow. If that goes well, Pettitte could pitch in a minor-league game Friday or Saturday.

If the rest of the Spring Training rotation goes as scheduled, Carl Pavano, who last pitched in a Major League game in June of 2005, will open the Yankees season against Tampa Bay on April 2. Wow…

As for yesterday’s game:
It showed how solid a hitter Doug Mientkiewicz can be. In the 5th inning, with runners on 2nd and 3rd and no outs, he fell behind 0-2. He fouled off several close pitches, working the count to 3-2 before lining a fastball into the right field corner for a two-run double. It gave the Yanks a 5-1 lead. It’s at-bats like his that make the difference between a win and loss; just a phenomenal situational at-bat. The idea was to at least get a sac-fly/grounder, but Dmint didn’t like the first two pitches and had enough bat control to foul off the close ones to force a full count (3-2) and find a hittable pitch to not just get the sac RBI but to get the XBH RBI.

Igawa pitched well again: 5 ip, 1 er. Again, not a great ball-strike ratio, but I’d wager without seeing the stats that he threw the most first pitch strikes today than any game to date. With improved control (and it HAS been improving every outing this spring), he’ll be a very solid ML pitcher.

The big blow was Arod jumping on a first pitch fastball and destroying it over the left field scoreboard. The inning was set up when Jeter reached on an error and Abreu worked a walk (surprise, surprise).

Matt Smith showed that the lefty-heavy Yanks will be vulnerable to lefty specialists. He pitched 1.1 perfect innings – he struck out Arod and Matsui, and induced weak pop-ups from Abreu and Giambi.

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