LAKELAND - Carl Pavano might not be ready by April 15, the first time a fifth starter will be needed.
Jaret Wright spent yesterday on a trainer's table getting treatment for back spasms.
Aaron Small is sidelined with a hamstring injury.
And Mike Mussina gave up 10 runs on 12 hits in four innings against the Tigers yesterday.
Opening Day is 13 days away and the Yankees pitching is a bigger question mark than ever.
When Pavano wasn't able to join the regular throwing program at the start of camp, it was assumed he would be available April 15. However, Joe Torre dampened that the ory yesterday, say ing he wasn't sure Pavano would be ready.
While Pa vano insists he feels great and Torre didn't say there was a physical problem with the right- hander, the ques tion sur faces in regard to Pavano having the required work.
"I'm not sure he will have enough innings by then," Torre said of Pavano when the fifth starter issue was broached. "I don't want to count on somebody and then have to look around for somebody else quickly."
Since Pavano is expected to make one start before camp ends a week from Thursday, it would be difficult for him to get the normal 30 innings a starter extracts from spring training. And since Pavano hasn't pitched in a big league game in nearly eight months, Torre thinks he might require more frames.
"He may need 35 (innings) because he hasn't pitched since the middle of last year," Torre said of Pavano, whose last start was on June 27 due to a shoulder problem that didn't require surgery.
Pavano, who threw to batters who weren't swinging Sunday at Legends Field, may not make his 2006 debut until April 29, the second time in the young season the Yankees play five straight days. Or he could be held out until May 5.
Since Torre explained the situation after the Tigers handed the Yankees a 15-2 loss yesterday at Joker Marchant Stadium, Pavano wasn't available for reaction.
"We have been conservative the whole time and we aren't going to force it," Torre said.
So who faces the Twins in the Metrodome on April 15? Wright and Small are the favorites if they are healthy. Triple-A right-hander Matt DeSalvo could be next in line.
And so, the Yankees continue to wait for a dividend on the four-year, $40 million investment they made in Pavano after the 2004 season. He was 4-6 with a 4.77 ERA in 17 games last year, when he was shelved with rotator cuff tendinitis and associated humerus pain.