Who could have predicted the series of events that would begin to unfold just a week ago, when Andy Pettitte experienced back spasms following a workout? Chien-Ming Wang injuring his hamstring while running isn’t exactly something we fans were worried about; if there was any concern at all, it was for his shoulder. Then Jeff Karstens, who was actually in consideration for the Opening Day starter gig, left yesterday’s game in the second with elbow stiffness. Turns out that logjam at AAA may not be as much of a problem as once thought over the season’s first month.
The timing of Wang’s injury — on a day Mussina pitched — leaves very open the matter of who starts on Opening Day. Pettitte is just returning to the mound today, preparing for a final exhibition start on Friday, which puts him right out of consideration. Since Mussina pitched Saturday, he’ll pitch Thursday, which also renders him out of bounds — there is no need to start a guy on three days rest before the season even begins.
Speculated over the weekend has been the real possibility that Carl Pavano ends up taking the ball Opening Day. At this point, it’s between him, Darrell Rasner, and Kei Igawa, meaning that any choice will likely leave the Yankees with the worst Opening Day starter in the league. Pavano rises to the top of that crop because 1) he’s the most recognizable name, 2) in theory, he is the best of the three, and 3) he gets paid the most money. To be honest, I’d be hard pressed to come up with three worse reasons for starting a guy on Opening Day.
Technically, though, it’s still spring, and spring means that hope and faith are still in abundance. So instead of lamenting how disgusting it is that Carl Pavano will start on April 2, let’s see if there’s any positive spin to put on this. Let’s see…Pavano has been injured for the past season and a half, and Opening Day will be his first MLB start in 643 days. As far as we know, he’s healthy now while his teammates ail. He hasn’t looked necessarily good this spring, but he hasn’t been tattooed. I got it!
It is Carl Pavano’s destiny to pitch a no-hitter on Opening Day. Am I stretching a bit? Sure. But think about this: how perfectly did these events unfold in Pavano’s favor? When pitchers and catchers reported, the only way that he would have even had a shot to pitch Opening Day was if Pettitte, Wang, and Mussina succumbed to injury, Jeff Karstens looked flat, and Kei Igawa didn’t adjust quickly. Of course, all five of those happening is an enormous long shot. A week and a day ago, only the Igawa scenario looked like it was happening.
But then we had the Pettitte incident on the same day Karstens got roughed up. Wang’s hammy lined up with Mussina’s start, leaving the team’s collective hands tied. If Pettitte had been hurt lifting that Friday and not Monday, if Wang got hurt earlier and the Yanks were able to juggle Moose’s rotation turn, then there would have been another answer on Opening Day. But now we’re stuck with Carl Pavano, and he could provide the kind of Opening Day magic we only hear about in tales told by 70-year-old men.
Or he could tire after five innings and get shelled by the D-Rays. I suppose that’s the more likely scenario. But, once again, we’re in the season of dreams, when anything is still possible because nothing to this point has counted.
Of course, I jest about Pavano’s destiny. However, I maintain a degree of seriousness when I ask: why not Phil Hughes? True, there’s a level of pressure to pitch well in that scenario, but Yankee Stadium would be absolutely electric, and that would definitely get the 20-year-old’s adrenaline pumping. I think a guy like Hughes would feed off it rather than be scared by it.
Plus, just think about it; who would you rather have start Opening Day, Phil Hughes or Carl Pavano? Seems like a no-brainer, right?