Torre plans to hold Pavano back

Torre not banking on Pavano by Opening Day

TAMPA, Fla. -- Carl Pavano believes he'll be healthy and ready to go by Opening Day, but his manager doesn't seem quite as certain of that.

On Sunday, Joe Torre sounded like a man who doesn't plan on using Pavano during the first week or two of the season, as the Yankees don't need a fifth starter until the middle of April.

"I'm not banking on him for Opening Day," said Torre, who stressed that Pavano has not had any setbacks. "The fact that we have a ton of off-days, you only need four -- and at times, only three -- to start. There's no rush to have him ready Opening Day."

Pavano has yet to throw off a mound this spring, as a minor back problem caused him to delay his normal throwing program by two weeks. He has been throwing off flat ground, but he won't get on the hill until the end of this week at the earliest.

"I'm progressing," Pavano said. "I'm doing everything but throwing off the mound. I think that's what puts the most pressure on the back, so that's why we'll take a little extra time to make sure that when I get out there, there's no setbacks and we can keep moving forward."

Pavano missed the entire second half of 2005 with rotator cuff tendinitis, but he believes that his back has been part of his problems for about a year. That's why, despite the fact that he has fallen behind his fellow pitchers this spring, he's not tempted to try and rush himself back.

"After what I went through last year, it's not hard at all," he said. "I wish I was smart enough to do that last year; maybe it would have been a different situation and wouldn't have been such a frustrating year.

"As much as I want to get out there, I want to get out there and know that I'm going to succeed and be able to build on things, instead of just treading water."

Torre believes that once Pavano gets up on a mound, he will be able to get all of his work in as scheduled. The shoulder which kept him out last year is in good shape, and his arm appears to be sound.

"Once he starts throwing, you can start the clock; I think it will come quickly," Torre said. "I think he's anxious, but the thing that is more important is that he probably feels better than he did at any time last year. He seems more relaxed."

Pavano agreed with Torre's assessment.

"Yeah, I've been anxious for six months," Pavano said. "I feel great. The consistency is there, and that's something I didn't have at all last year. I'm definitely seeing things this year that I didn't see from myself at all last year, and that's the most encouraging thing about it."

Mark Feinsand is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.