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Notes: Pavano clears head on drive

Notes: Pavano clears head on drive

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- By the time the Yankees' bus pulled up to City of Palms Park on Monday, Carl Pavano was already in the building and in an anxious frame of mind, having driven down from Tampa ahead of the team-provided transportation.

Manager Joe Torre arrived at the complex, found his vehicularly-challenged right-hander and kiddingly let out a heavy exhale of relief. Pavano's August 2006 traffic accident has not been forgotten, but it apparently has become a valid topic to joke about in the Yankees' clubhouse.

"It was a nice ride just to clear my head a little bit and get down here before the bus," Pavano said. "Me and [Torre] had a little bit of a laugh about that, like, 'Whew.' I figured I'd get here and let them know that I'm all right."

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Pavano, 31, returned from an eight-day layoff to throw three innings in the Yankees' 7-5 loss to the Red Sox on Monday, his second appearance of the spring.

Concentrating mostly on his fastball and building arm strength, Pavano allowed two runs and four hits, throwing 48 pitches (29 for strikes).

"He looked like he was free and easy," Torre said. "That's the best part about it. I didn't care about results as much as I did about how he pitched. He looked like he was very aggressive and there was a lot of life in his body. He felt good."

Though he allowed a two-run double to Red Sox backup catcher Doug Mirabelli, Pavano said he was able to gain some confidence from shutting down Boston's biggest bats.

David Ortiz grounded out and lined to right in his two at-bats against Pavano, while Manny Ramirez was caught looking at a called third strike in the second inning. Pavano's final pitch of the evening recorded his second strikeout, ringing up J.D. Drew.

"They've got a tough lineup, and it doesn't get any easier when the season starts," Pavano said. "It's always nice facing this team. You know that their one-through-nine is probably as good as it gets.

"As the season goes, they're going to have their hits. You can't keep them in their cages all of the time. They're going to get out and get their runs and their hits. It's just about damage control."

During the trip of more than two hours, Pavano said he was hit by a flood of memories. Originally drafted by the Red Sox in 1994, Pavano broke in with Fort Myers in the Gulf Coast League and recalled pitching off that very same mound as he was trying to establish his career.

Now that Pavano is attempting to prove that he can be a healthy and reliable piece of the Yankees rotation, it's fair to point to what Pavano eventually became after that summer 13 years ago.

Catcher Todd Pratt faced Pavano numerous times in the National League when the right-hander was at his finest for the Florida Marlins, and Pratt believes that Pavano can return to those levels of performance.

"It's sad that New York hasn't seen the best of Carl," Pratt said. "I definitely faced him many times. You talked about A.J. [Burnett] and Josh [Beckett], and he was as dominating as those two guys when he was at his best. I saw some of the stuff today that I saw in the past. There just needs to be more consistency."

Batter up, again and again: Andy Phillips was the offensive star as Andy Pettitte fired a simulated game at Legends Field on Monday.

Returning to action after missing a week of camp while attending to his injured mother, Linda, in Alabama, Phillips went 2-for-9 in simulated action against the left-hander.

Phillips said the biggest adjustment was batting while a little winded; Phillips led off the game by grounding out to shortstop Derek Jeter, but instead of taking a seat in the dugout, he jogged back to the on-deck circle and promptly prepared for another at-bat.

"I had to get used to grounding out, and then running back and hitting again," Phillips said. "It felt like a Bugs Bunny cartoon every at-bat."

Phillips, who continues to be considered a strong contender to win a spot in the Yankees' planned first-base platoon, said he believed he could get into a Grapefruit League game as soon as Tuesday against the Reds. Phillips said that some rust was expected, but that he was encouraged by his nine at-bat session against Pettitte, in which he singled and stroked a ground-rule double.

Baby steps: Bobby Abreu (strained oblique) went through a workout in the outfield on Monday at the Legends Field complex, fielding grounders and fly balls with no issues, Torre said.

Abreu has been sidelined since Feb. 26, when he was injured while taking batting practice. He has taken dry swings and hit soft-toss pitches thrown from a few feet away, and is close to taking batting practice in the cages.

"I feel a lot better right now," Abreu said. "I feel like I'm swinging at 50 or 60 percent."

Torre said that Abreu is a possibility to play in Minor League games to test his recovery. The danger is that Abreu's oblique could still be vulnerable on a checked swing, bringing him back to square one.

Abreu will not be with the team on Tuesday. He and coach Larry Bowa have been cleared to fly to Philadelphia for the funeral services of former Phillies coach John Vukovich, who died Thursday from complications of an inoperable brain tumor.

This and that: Johnny Damon, Doug Mientkiewicz and Mike Myers -- three left-handed members of Boston's 2004 World Series club -- were given the day off Monday by Torre. ... Right-hander Humberto Sanchez (strained right forearm) continues to improve and is expected to be among the Yankees' Minor League reassignments on Tuesday.

Quotable: "I think it's hard to believe. Obviously, you love to win, but to me in Spring Training, getting people in shape is the most important thing. The fans crave it and that's good enough for us. It really doesn't matter what we think." -- Torre, on the frenzied atmosphere for the Yankees-Red Sox Spring Training matchup

Coming up: The Yankees host the Reds for the second time this spring at 7:15 p.m. ET on Tuesday, with right-hander Mike Mussina (0-0, 5.40 ERA) slated to pitch for New York. Right-hander Aaron Harang (1-1, 9.00 ERA) counters for Cincinnati.

The Yankees are also scheduled to pitch Matt DeSalvo, Luis Vizcaino and Myers. The Reds will throw Mike Stanton, Todd Coffey and Rheal Cormier.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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