NEW YORK — The starting pitchers for today's Angels-Yankees game have a combined 2009 salary of $23.4 million; CC Sabathia of the Yankees will make $23 million, and Matt Palmer of the Angels will make $400,000, as long as he remains in the major leagues.
"That's funny, now that you mention it," said Palmer, a 30-year-old right-hander who has made all of four big league starts. "It does seem a little extravagant. I won't think about that [today], but in the big picture, I'm a little smaller than him."
Sabathia, the 2007 American League Cy Young Award winner, signed a seven-year, $161-million contract with the Yankees last winter, but it is Palmer who has the better record entering today.
Palmer, called up in late April to plug a hole in the rotation, won his only start of the season, giving up four earned runs in six innings of a 10-5 win over Detroit on April 23. The erratic Sabathia is 1-2 with a 4.73 earned-run average.
"Good for me, good for me," Palmer said, chuckling. "I guess I have one up on him. But he's definitely someone all pitchers look up to."
Palmer never thought he'd have a chance to pitch in Yankee Stadium, old or new, and not just because he spent his first seven professional seasons in the San Francisco Giants' organization.
When Palmer was stuck in double A for a third straight year in 2006, he nearly quit baseball. A horticulture major at Missouri State, he considered starting a landscape business.
"I was throwing the ball well, but I didn't think I had a shot," Palmer said. "My wife told me to stick with it."
Palmer did, finally reaching the big leagues last August. He made three starts for the Giants, going 0-2 with an 8.53 ERA.
The Angels signed him as a free agent in January, and all those years toiling in the minor leagues seemed worth it when Palmer earned his first big league victory.
He dedicated the win to his wife, Michelle.
There's a catch
It was imperative that Jeff Mathis remained healthy Friday night, because Mike Napoli, the Angels' other catcher, made his first start at designated hitter. Had Mathis suffered an injury and been replaced by Napoli, the Angels would have lost the DH.
That was a risk Manager Mike Scioscia was willing to take, because Napoli, who entered with a .283 average, four home runs and eight runs batted in, has been swinging a hot bat, and the Yankees started left-hander Andy Pettitte.
"This is a chance to keep Mike's bat in the lineup," Scioscia said. "If this is a look we go with for a while, we would need to add a third catcher, but right now, we're not ready to commit to that because we still have a lot of bats we want to keep in the lineup."
The Angels decided to split up Ervin Santana and John Lackey for their third rehabilitation starts.
Santana, recovering from an elbow ligament sprain, will start Monday for Class-A Rancho Cucamonga, with a target of four innings and 60 pitches. Lackey will start Tuesday for triple-A Salt Lake with the same target.
Reliever Kevin Jepsen, on the disabled list because of a lower-back strain, started a rehab assignment for Salt Lake on Thursday night, giving up four hits, including a three-run home run, in one-third of an inning.