Pavano returns, helps Yankees overcome Orioles

BALTIMORE (AP) -- Carl Pavano will never be able to provide the New York Yankees ample return on his near $40 million contract, so he will settle for improving a rotation that certainly could use a fresh arm.

The oft-injured pitcher returned from an extended absence Saturday night and hung around long enough to pick up the win in a 5-3 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.

Pitching in the major leagues for the first time since April 2007, Pavano (1-0) allowed three runs and seven hits in five innings. The right-hander walked one, hit two batters and struck out five in his 91-pitch effort.

"It's amazing. This is what I get paid to do, this is what I live for," Pavano said. "This is all I really want, to go out there every fifth day and do my job."

Asked if he could help the Yankees this season, Pavano replied, "I know I can."

It was Pavano's 20th start with the Yankees since signing a four-year contract before the 2005 season. Only three of those appearances have come since June 2005; his latest injury resulted in elbow ligament replacement surgery last June and a 14-month rehabilitation period.

"Last year battling through this surgery and having this team behind me with their support, it's meant everything," he said. "Ninety pitches in five innings isn't going to cut it every time out, I realize that. But it's a big win for the team right now."

Pavano's return comes at a time when the pitching-starved Yankees are trying to fill a rotation without Chien-Ming Wang and Joba Chamberlain. Pavano last won a game in the majors on April 9, 2007. His last win before that was on May 25, 2005.

"I was happy for him," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He's in our rotation and that's the bottom line. I think it means a lot to him, especially what he's been through, to be able to come out and contribute at such an important time of year."

Considering that Pavano went so long between starts, he was a lot more efficient than could be expected.

"He had pretty good command of his pitches tonight," Baltimore's Jay Payton said. "Obviously he wasn't lighting up the radar gun, but you don't have to do that in this game if you hit your spots."

Brian Bruney followed Pavano with two innings of one-hit ball. Jose Veras worked the eighth and Mariano Rivera got three outs for his 30th save in 31 tries.

Bruney said of Pavano: "I think he wanted to get out there and prove himself to New York."

And, Pavano has something to prove to himself.

"That's the most important thing. If you're out to prove something to everyone else, I think it takes away a special part of being in the major leagues," he said. "Obviously there's been a lot going on the last four years. I can't ignore that. But I'm still the same person I was four years ago when I go out there on the mound."

Jason Giambi hit his 25th homer and drove in three runs, and Hideki Matsui had a solo shot for his 500th career RBI.

Both homers came off Jeremy Guthrie (10-10), who gave up five runs and seven hits in 6 2/3 innings.

The Yankees went up 2-0 in the first when Alex Rodriguez hit an RBI double and scored on a single by Giambi.

Baltimore got three hits in the bottom half, but a double play helped Pavano escape without allowing a run. He wasn't as fortunate in the second inning, when the Orioles used three hits and a walk to go up 3-2.

With the bases loaded and no outs, Juan Castro hit a sacrifice fly. Brian Roberts followed with a run-scoring grounder and Nick Markakis added an RBI single. Melvin Mora then struck out, and that's when things got a little weird.

Mora walked away from the plate in disgust, then realized catcher Ivan Rodriguez didn't hold the third strike and started jogging around the bases, stopping at second as the Yankees ran off the field. But Mora was ruled out by plate umpire Joe West.

"The hitter walked toward the dugout to throw his bat and helmet away. He, in doing so, has abandoned his effort to reach the next base," West said. "He's called out, according to the rule."

Orioles manager Dave Trembley argued with such fervor that West ejected him from the game.

Baltimore got runners on first and second with no outs in the fourth, but Pavano struck out the side.

New York regained the lead in the third when Guthrie hit Alex Rodriguez with a pitch and Giambi followed by hitting a 3-2 delivery into the center-field seats.

Matsui hit his ninth homer of the season leading off the seventh, his second since coming off the disabled list.

Game notes
To make room for Pavano, the Yankees optioned LHP Billy Traber to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. ... Giambi's 202 homers with the Yankees tie him with Bill Dickey for 13th place on the franchise list. ... Orioles C Ramon Hernandez extended his hitting streak to 13 games, tying a career high.