Riding hot streak, Pavano to face Yanks

Pavano to face Yanks

CLEVELAND -- Carl Pavano doesn't need to blank the Yanks to feel vindicated.

For Pavano, vindication comes each time he's able to take the ball for his regular turn in the rotation. Each time he's able to complete his side work without pain or treatment. And each time he gives the Indians a chance to win a ballgame.

Pavano will get the starting nod for the 11th time this season when the Indians continue their four-game wraparound set with the Yankees on Sunday afternoon at Progressive Field. A national television audience will tune in on TBS, with Chip Caray handling play-by-play and Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley serving as an analyst.

If Pavano is as effective as he was in Yankee Stadium last month, this nationally televised game could serve as a showcase of just how far he's come in his Tribe tenure. For one, the big right-hander hasn't made this many starts in a season since the first year of a four-year contract that still serves as an embarrassment for the Yanks, who paid Pavano $39.95 million to make 26 total appearances.

"I haven't [pitched] this much in a while," Pavano said. "I feel like the consistency of my routine is starting to have an impact. I'm able to throw 90-100 pitches, and doing well helps your confidence."

Pavano has done quite well lately. He's probably happy to be squeezing in one last start before the calendar flips, because all five of his wins this season have come in May. Pavano is 5-1 with a 3.58 ERA for the month.

To gauge just how much time Pavano missed with injuries over the years, consider that he totaled five wins from May 23, 2005, to April 30, 2009 -- a span of 1,438 days.

As the season progresses, Pavano is getting more velocity on his fastball and, therefore, more deception with his secondary pitches. He attributes his strong month to the ability to get his work in between starts.

"I'm not working around or working through things," he said. "I'm just working on things. When you're injured, you're not throwing at all, you're not working on anything except getting healthy. Now I can focus on getting the consistency in my delivery and my approach."

As Pavano settles into a routine, the wins have become routine this month. He is one of just two pitchers in the big leagues -- Tigers rookie Rick Porcello is the other -- with five wins in May.

In a stark contrast to staff ace Cliff Lee, who is begging his offense to score him some runs, Pavano has been blessed with an outpouring of offense. The Indians are averaging 8.73 runs per nine innings when he's on the mound.

But when you consider everything Pavano went through, from an injury standpoint, while with the Yankees, he's probably due for a little good luck.

"I'm a guy who induces a lot of contact, and my teammates have made the plays and scored some runs for me," Pavano said. "So [the success] is a compliment to them, as well."

Pavano didn't receive many compliments when he was in New York last month. The Yankees faithful treated him like a villain, but he quieted them with a six-inning effort in which he allowed just a run on four hits to a potent New York lineup. Alas, Pavano was saddled with a no-decision thanks to a lack of support from his offense and bullpen.

In the comforts of home, Pavano won't have to deal with the Bronx cheers. But any time he faces the Yankees, it will be a story.

"There's always distractions," he said. "But you get to a point where you've been around a while, and you learn how to deal with distractions. And any time you go out and do your job, it's gratifying. It makes you want to work harder and also tells you you're on the right track."

Pavano has certainly been on that track this month.

Pitching matchup
CLE: RHP Carl Pavano (5-4, 5.50 ERA)
Pavano's last outing against the Rays on Tuesday was arguably his strongest start of the season. In seven innings, he allowed just one run -- on a Carlos Pena solo shot in the seventh -- on four hits with two walks and six strikeouts.

NYY: RHP Phil Hughes (3-2, 5.16 ERA)
Hughes will try for his third consecutive victory on Sunday as he comes off a dominant outing against the Rangers in Arlington on Monday, limiting the opposition to three hits over eight scoreless innings. It marked Hughes' second scoreless start of the season, as he also tossed six shutout frames on April 28 at Detroit. Hughes has allowed three earned runs or fewer in five of his six starts this season. He last pitched against Cleveland in Game 3 of the 2007 American League Division Series, when he relieved Roger Clemens and hurled 3 2/3 innings of scoreless relief to earn the Yankees' only postseason victory that year.

Tidbits
Grady Sizemore will DH again Sunday before the Indians decide whether or not to test out his inflamed left elbow. ... Anthony Reyes will visit Dr. Lewis Yocum in California on Tuesday to get a second opinion on his right elbow. But it's pretty much a certainty that Reyes will have an ulnar nerve transposition performed on the elbow, ending his 2009 season. The recovery from such a procedure is four to six months. "It sucks," Reyes said. "I worked my butt off this offseason." ... The Indians had six hours, 32 minutes worth of rain delays this past week. ... Right-hander Matt Herges' 8 1/3-inning scoreless streak is the longest this season by a Tribe reliever. Lefties are 2-for-23 off Herges.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• STO-HD, TBS

On radio
• WTAM 1100

Up next
• Monday: Indians (Jeremy Sowers, 1-2, 7.71) vs. Yankees (Joba Chamberlain, 2-1, 3.97), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Tuesday: Indians (David Huff, 0-1, 10.97) at Twins (Kevin Slowey, 7-1, 4.11), 8:10 p.m. ET
• Wednesday: Indians (Cliff Lee, 2-6, 3.16) at Twins (Scott Baker, 2-6, 6.32), 8:10 p.m. ET

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