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Yankees tab Pavano as Opening Day starter

TAMPA, Fla. -- Carl Pavano will be the New York Yankees'
Opening Day starter -- his first time on the mound in the majors
since June 2005.

Pavano will be followed in the rotation by Andy Pettitte, Mike
Mussina and Kei Igawa. The fifth starter spot for the beginning of
the season is expected to be filled by Darrell Rasner, who was told
that he made the team.

Pavano has been out for almost two years because of a variety of
injuries.

"It's going to be pretty exciting," a smiling Pavano said.
"Who wouldn't be excited at this opportunity? It's a good day."

New York manager Joe Torre made the announcement Friday.

Pavano got the assignment after injuries to Pettitte and
Chien-Ming Wang. Pettitte was scheduled to pitch for the first time
since experiencing back spasms March 19 in a minor league game
Friday.

Torre said the delay in naming the Opening Day starter was
because the Yankees considered having Pettitte make the start.

"I know there have been some questions asked of me, what are
you trying to do, something instead of Pavano?" Torre said. "That
wasn't the case. We thought for a time there that Andy could be the
opening-day starter. When we talked about it yesterday, it was the
fact in order for him to be the opening-day starter, he was
initially going to face six hitters [Friday] and then start Monday.
Probably could have done it, but probably better off if he had more
work."


Pavano is 61-64 with a 4.27 career ERA in 184 major league appearances for the Montreal Expos, Florida Marlins and Yankees. He was 4-6 in 2005.

Pavano signed with the Yankees after a 2003 season in which he went 18-8 for the Marlins and 2-0 in the postseason as they beat New York in the World Series.

Drafted by Boston in 1994, Pavano was one of two prospects the Red Sox dealt to the Expos for Pedro Martinez in 1997.

Wang is expected to be out until at least late April with a
pulled right hamstring. He threw for the first time off a
half-mound, making 20 throws each to a catcher positioned in front
and behind the plate.

I feel better than expected," Wang said.

Torre also said Josh Phelps beat out Andy Phillips at first
base. The manager didn't rule out Phelps starting against Tampa Bay
left-hander Scott Kazmir in Monday's season opener at Yankee
Stadium.

Phelps and lefty hitting Doug Mientkiewicz are expected to
platoon at first.

Wil Nieves won the backup catcher spot over Todd Pratt, who said
he would try to hook on with another team after being informed of
the move.

Pratt missed time early in spring training with a heel injury.

Nieves has played just 37 major league games in his career.
"I'm excited," Nieves said. "This is the opportunity I've
been looking for. I'm going to take advantage of it. I'm going to
work hard."

Sean Henn claimed the second left-handed reliever spot.

Ron Villone, who was competing with Henn, said he was asked by
the Yankees to join Triple-A Scranton. The left-hander said he will
make a decision later Friday or Saturday.

Torre said right-hander Jeff Karstens, who left a start last
Sunday with right elbow stiffness, likely will start the season on
the disabled list. He threw on flat ground at 90 feet.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.