Carl Pavano, man of destiny

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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?

Looking Ahead to the Draft, High School Edition
Catching up with some Yanks news
  • Richard C

    Thanks for painting the most negative and pessimistic picture that anybody possibly could??!! I don’t care how negative you media guys get with this Pavano thing, I am looking forward to Opening Day and seeing my team play baseball. I am lookinng forward to seeing Carl Pavano pitch. I wish him the very best as a human being and as a Yankee player. I don’t give a rats ass what happened last year with him. It’s a new season, a new day.

  • Joseph P.

    Hey, I displayed my optimism in this piece. True, it was a bit tongue-in-cheek, but I’m also trying to maintain a level of realism. I wish Pavano well, too, but things just don’t look too good for him right now. If he pitches well, I’ll be the first to say “good game.”

  • Ben

    Here’s the thing. Who really gives a damn who pitches Opening Day? It’s symbolic nonsense. It’s still just one game out of 162.

  • Mike A,

    In the grand scheme of things, your Opening Day pitcher likely won’t effect where the team finishes in the standings. Like Ben said, it’s more symbolic than anything – it’s a sign of respect and recognition for a guy who’s been there and done the job for you in the past.

    The concept that your Opening Day starter is the team’s ace is very, very outdated. Johan Santana didn’t get his first OD start until last year, ditto Jake Peavy. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know they’re their team’s best arms.

    The rotation isn’t in shambles like everyone thinks. Pavano and Igawa will be adequate, Pettitte will be back before long, and Moose is still Moose. Rasner – or whoever gets the #5 spot – will start about 2 game in April because of the schedule.

  • Joseph P.

    No, it’s definitely not in shambles, Mike. Pettitte should be starting on 4/5, unless something goes awry this week.

    Stil, come on; you know you’d love Hughes to start that game.

  • Sooze

    Sometimes the Opening Day spot is given to a pitcher out of loyalty, rather than performance. That’s not the case with Pavano, but like Mike mentioned, until last season, Brad Radke was the Twins’ OD man – out of loyalty.

    I think Pavano will have a great season. He’s had a lot of time to regroup and Torre seems impressed by his progress.

  • Richard C


    You are doing your job, I get that. You are actually a good writer, I have always liked your stuff. I know “realism” is what you need to do. BUT….I am a loyal Yankee fan. I believe in my team. I believe in believing in people, Pavano included. Sometimes we talk about these players like they were livestock, racehorses. You say, “things don’t look good for him”!!?? You think so??!! He trained hard all winter, he had a decent ST, he is rich, dating a supermodel and he is pitching for the New York Yankees (my team) on opening day. It sounds like things are looking pretty well for him to me!
    God Bless you Carl Pavano. Go out there and kick ass! I am rooting for you all the way.

  • Mike A,

    It boils down to this: Carl Pavano is going to start Opening Day, whether you like it or not. He’s got a chance to erase all the negativity around him by pitching a great game, and I’m looking forward to seeing how he handles it.

    I’d like to see Hughes start the game out of selfish reasons, but he’s not ready for it yet. If you asked me that last Sept, I’d have said he could handle it. Funny how a poor spring with change your mind.

  • Rob

    I for one would much rather have Pavano start on opening day that Hughes. The Hughes hype has gotten big enough already. Whatever anybody says about his “poise” or “makeup” he’s 20 (or 21?) years old. Maybe if he’d been lights-out this spring, but he wasn’t.

    If Pavano sucks, well, he’s Pavano. It’s not like his stock could drop any further. If Hughes started and sucked, that would… well, suck. ;)

  • Jeff

    Well, there will certainly be a lot of pressure on Pavano. I mean, this game really is going to make or break him in terms of everyone’s impression of him. If he goes out there and dominates, everyone will be talking about him. Likewise if he bombs, then it’s pretty much a career destroyer. That’s a lot of pressure. Maybe that’s a bit exadgerated but I think that while the season may not be at stake, his reputation certainly is.

    As for me, I have a few pitchers on my fantasy team that are on 15-day DL so I grabbed Pavano for the time being. I have faith. I hope he goes out there and shows up everyone for all the negetive hipe and kicks some butt.