Pavano threw a strike to the Rays' Eric Hinske before walking slowly to the front of the mound, snapping the ball back from catcher Ivan Rodriguez before gesturing to his hip. He later described the sensation as a cramp that grabbed at him.
"I'm at a spot right now where I'm starting to wake up muscles I haven't used in a while," Pavano said. "Every time I go out there, it's more innings than the last time and more pitches than the last time. These are things that I'm going to have to work on."
Pavano walked off the field with assistant trainer Steve Donohue to a chorus of boos from the Yankee Stadium crowd, but he received an assortment of fist pounds in the Yankees' dugout before conversing with pitching coach Dave Eiland.
"What's the big deal? We won the ballgame," Pavano said. "I'm sure they're pretty happy now."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi did not express surprise that the oft-injured Pavano received a negative reaction from the crowd, but stressed that the pitcher lobbied to stay in the game.
"That's probably from his past," Girardi said. "He did not want to come out. He told me he was fine and I was going to give him one more hitter, but I thought, 'I want you to make your next start.'"
Girardi speculated that Pavano may have felt the stiffness and cramping due to dehydration on an unusually muggy September afternoon in New York. The first-pitch temperature was 83 degrees.
Pavano was not sent for tests. His next start is scheduled for Friday against the Orioles, the third-to-last game to be played at Yankee Stadium.
"I expect to wake up tomorrow and continue my routine and get ready for my next start," Pavano said.
The right-hander is in the final season of a four-year, $39.95 million contract that has been marred by injuries. Pavano missed more than a calendar year after undergoing Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery in 2007.
He returned to action with the Yankees on Aug. 23 at Baltimore, joining a clubhouse that was generally accepting of him as the club attempted to fight long odds to make the postseason.
Pavano was making his fifth start for New York -- and his 24th since signing the contract in Dec. 2004 -- against Tampa Bay, allowing four runs (three earned) on five hits in 5 1/3 innings, walking two and striking out three. He was relieved by right-hander Edwar Ramirez and left with New York leading, 7-3, keeping him in line for his third victory.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.