NEW YORK -- Carl Pavano's career with the Yankees could be over, as the oft-injured right-hander appears to be headed for season-ending surgery.

General manager Brian Cashman said on Wednesday that a battery of four doctors has agreed that Pavano has either a substantial or complete tear of a ligament in his pitching elbow, with Tommy John surgery having been recommended as a treatment option.

Pavano's agent, Gregg Clifton, said that a call has been put in to Dr. James Andrews, the renowned Birmingham, Ala.-based orthopedic specialist, as Pavano wants to have the procedure performed as quickly as possible.

"The only thing the doctors gave us was confirmation that the bottom line here is reconstructive surgery," Clifton said. "It's a disappointing day for Carl, to learn that he won't pitch again in '07. He was looking forward to coming back this year and showing all of the fans, coaches and players that he could be the pitcher they hoped he can be."

The surgery would remove Pavano from action for a span of 12 to 18 months, which could take him through the remaining time on his contract with the Yankees. Pavano is in the third season of a four-year, $39.95 million deal.

"We had a lot invested in Carl and were hopeful he could pitch for us," Cashman said. "Obviously, there's a realistic possibility that he won't pitch for us anymore.

"The time is not on our side, obviously, for him to get fully recovered and back and pitching in time. There's an outside possibility at the second half of next year, but everything would have to go right."

Clifton said that the approaching end of Pavano's contract could serve as a factor in his progression coming back from the surgery, which could take place within a week.

"It's one of the main motivating factors for Carl," Clifton said, "to pitch for the Yankees again."

Pavano was sent on a tour of four noted physicians as his stint on the 15-day disabled list dragged on, with the club hoping to find an alternative under which he could return and be a useful presence on their roster in 2007.

Andrews, Yankees team physician Dr. Stuart Hershon, plus noted surgeons Dr. David Altchek and Dr. Lewis Yocum all saw Pavano privately, filing reports to Cashman and the Yankees that confirmed the tear.

"All four doctors conclude that he has a damaged ligament," Cashman said.

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Previous season series
2006: Yankees 11, Red Sox 8
2005: Yankees 10, Red Sox 9
2004: Red Sox 11, Yankees 8

Cashman said that the findings of the MRIs were discussed with Pavano at the Manhattan offices of team president Randy Levine on Wednesday. Clifton listened in via speakerphone.

A touted acquisition as a free-agent starting pitcher following his 18-8 campaign for the Florida Marlins in 2004, Pavano's time with the Yankees can largely be characterized as a disaster.

The team's investment yielded just 19 starts to date, two of which came this season before he was complained of forearm stiffness -- in hindsight, a precursor to ligament trouble -- following an April 9 start against the Twins in Minnesota.

Pavano, who served as the Opening Day starter against the Devil Rays on April 2, compiled a grand total of 11 1/3 innings for New York this year. Prior to this season, he had been idle for the last one and a half Major League seasons, losing time to a litany of injuries to his shoulder, back, buttocks, elbow and ribs.

The hurler had once appeared on track to rejoin the Yankees last August, but then revealed that he had been concealing two broken ribs, an injury he sustained in an automobile collision in West Palm Beach, Fla. The incident knocked him out for the remainder of 2006 and sparked a civil lawsuit that is still ongoing.

But even given the struggles, the Yankees continued to have faith that Pavano would be able to help them, and he was penciled in as a contributing member of the starting rotation as Spring Training began.

Pavano went through a battery of core-strengthening exercises at a fitness center in Phoenix over the offseason, and said that he felt flexible and strong as he reported to Legends Field in Tampa, though he had fences to mend with his fractured clubhouse relationships, stemming from his long and repeated absences.

"When we signed him, we had high expectations, clearly, that he would be someone who helped a great deal with this rotation," Cashman said. "Obviously, it hasn't happened, for mostly injury reasons. This is just another one.

"It just hasn't worked out, let's put it that way. I had high hopes for Carl to be an innings-eater for us, a stabilizer and a solid No. 3 at worst. It just hasn't happened. Physically, he hasn't been able to do so."