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Updated: May 13th, 2012 3:48pm
Carl Pavano plans to pitch through a strained pitching shoulder

Carl Pavano plans to pitch through a strained pitching shoulder

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Carl Pavano's first seven starts this season have been a grind, but there seems to be an explanation now as to why.

The Minnesota Twins issued a precautionary MRI on Pavano's right shoulder this past week due to concern over the 36-year-old's drop in velocity. Results showed no structural damage, but a strained shoulder capsule.

Pavano will still make his scheduled start against the Indians on Monday, but if the shoulder continues to hinder his performance the Twins do have Brian Duensing and Anthony Swarzak stretched out just in case another starting pitcher is needed.

"It's not the best news but it's better than (them) saying, 'You've got a problem with your rotator cuff or parts of your shoulder muscles,'" Pavano said. "It's just something I've been dealing with since spring training, that I've been trying to get through.

"We stayed off the mound in between starts just trying to save my bullets to see if it will get me over the hump and it really hasn't gotten there yet, where I want it to be, but it's moving in the right direction. It hasn't moved backwards, we've kind of kept it at bay. It's just something I'm dealing with and I'm going to have to continue to deal with until I get through it."

Pavano owns a 5.02 ERA (4.19 xFIP) in 43 innings. His walk rate is fantastic (1.26 BB per nine), and his strikeout rate is the same as last year (4.2 K per nine), but he has allowed six home runs and his groundball rate (45%) is his lowest since 2009.

Pavano's average fastball has dropped from 89 mph in 2011 to 86-87 mph this year. His pitches this year also have had a tendency to flatten out more often, particularly his changeup and slider according to MLB Pitch F/X data.

"After his last start, we questioned, 'Are you OK?'" Gardenhire said. "Because his velocity was 85-86. He says he feels fine, he just doesn't feel like he has the range of motion. Well, we found out why. It was about being able to reach back."

Pavano said the discomfort is something he's dealt with since spring training, but he figured he could work through it and it would eventually improve.

"I wish I were stronger, but my command hasn't really been affected, so I'm hoping as soon as this clears up my strength will come back," he said.

"It's hard to get out front and really get strength behind it. It seems to just take (away) my arm strength a little bit. But it's not something I've ever dealt with, so, you know, I've dealt with a lot of stuff in my shoulder; I've just never dealt with anything like this. It's to the point where I'm glad we got those films, and the films say I can keep pitching without putting anything else at harm."

If the shoulder doesn't feel better after his start in Milwaukee next weekend he will probably get a cortisone shot. He also plans to send the MRI results to Dr. David Altcheck for a second opinion, just to be certain there is no serious damage.

"I'm not sure he'll have a different diagnosis, but he might have a little thing that might help," Pavano said. "He works with a lot of athletes, so maybe he knows, 'Oh, this worked for this guy' and can help me find something to get over the hump. It's always good to get a couple opinions."

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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