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Thursday, August 21, 2008
Updated: August 23, 2:38 AM ET
Injury-prone Pavano to start for Yankees this weekend

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TORONTO -- Carl Pavano, written off by New York Yankees fans, will return and start for the team on Saturday at Baltimore.

The Yankees chose the right-handed Pavano over fellow righty Phil Hughes, who is working his way back from a fractured rib.

Carl Pavano
Pavano

"We liked the way [Pavano] was throwing the ball and we felt that Hughes needed some more work," manager Joe Girardi said before Thursday's game against the Blue Jays.

The 32-year-old Pavano signed a $39.95 million, four-year contract with the Yankees before the 2005 season but injuries to his shoulder, back, buttocks, elbow and ribs have limited him to 19 appearances for New York, and only two since June 27, 2005. He is 5-6 for the Yankees.

"He's experienced," Girardi said. "He's pitched in big games before, he's pitched in the playoffs. You're not talking about a kid coming up that is a rookie and doesn't have a ton of innings under his belt in the big leagues. We're expecting him to throw well and keep us in the game and give us an opportunity. If he can go six innings it would be great."

On the disabled list all season following elbow ligament replacement surgery in June last year, Pavano has been dubbed "American Idle" by New York tabloids.

Pavano received the news from Yankees general manager Brian Cashman in a telephone call Thursday, according to the pitcher's agent, Thomas O'Connell. Pavano, who had been in Trenton, N.J., with the Yankees' Double-A team on a rehabilitation assignment, will meet up with the Yankees in Baltimore on Friday.

"We are extremely excited," O'Connell told 1050 ESPN Radio in New York.

Girardi said he'll likely start Pavano's former Florida teammate Ivan Rodriguez behind the plate Saturday. The two played together on the 2003 Marlins team that beat the Yankees in the World Series.

Pavano joins a patched-together rotation that includes Sidney Ponson and Darrell Rasner along with Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte. The Yankees have several injured starters, a group that includes Chien-Ming Wang, Joba Chamberlain and Hughes.

Hughes allowed five runs and eight hits in 3 2/3 innings in a rehab start for Triple-A Scranton on Sunday, and is due to start there again Friday.

"Obviously his command wasn't there, his breaking ball wasn't sharp," Girardi said. "He's just got to get his stuff right."

Chamberlain, out since Aug. 6 with rotator cuff tendinitis, threw 20 fastballs to coach Roman Rodriguez on the outfield grass before Thursday's game.

"I let a couple of them go and it felt good," said Chamberlain, who will take Friday off before throwing 30 to 35 fastballs and change-ups off the bullpen mound before Saturday's game at Baltimore.

New York's streak of consecutive playoff appearances is in danger of ending at 13. The Yankees began Thursday with 67-59 record, 10 games behind Tampa Bay in the AL East and 5 games back of Boston in the AL wild-card race.

Mussina left the Yankees Thursday to travel to Baltimore, where he is due to start Friday. Mussina has been critical of Pavano for not pitching through pain while other Yankees, himself included, have battled through injuries and remained with the team.

"When one guy is out there playing the game despite whatever is going on and somebody else is not, that's how teammates get bad tastes in their mouths," Mussina said during spring training in 2007.

O'Connell thinks that Pavano has a chance to show what type of pitcher he really is and put to rest some of the criticism. O'Connell stressed that Pavano just wants to help the Yankees and is not merely trying to improve his stock when he is a free agent this offseason.

"It's obviously been frustrating," O'Connell told 1050 ESPN Radio. "He just has to go back to being Carl Pavano. He is ready to go."

Asked Thursday, other Yankees seemed less concerned by Pavano's bid for redemption.

"I'm not worried about that," Girardi said. "I think he'll be welcomed with open arms. I'm not asking him to make amends. I'm just asking him to come and compete."

Third baseman Alex Rodriguez said the Yankees can't afford to be picky.

"We're looking for any help we can get," Rodriguez said. "Ironically enough, we've never needed him more than now."

Shortstop Derek Jeter said he never looked at Pavano as someone who was unwilling to play.

"I just saw it as somebody who kept getting hurt," Jeter said. "Injuries are something you can't help."

Outfielder Johnny Damon saw Pavano at New York's minor league facility in Tampa while he was rehabbing a shoulder injury last month, and said Pavano "had the itch to get back on the mound."

"His mind seemed to be right and focussed," Damon said. "This is a big month and a half for him. He knows he needs to prove, not only to us, but to the rest of baseball that he's still healthy and that he can pitch in the big leagues."

Information from 1050 ESPN Radio's Andrew Marchand and The Associated Press was used in this report.