Carl Pavano playing the waiting game with his right shoulder, career
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MINNEAPOLIS -- In the time leading up to his meeting with Dr. David Altchek last month -- their second meeting of the season -- Minnesota Twins right-hander Carl Pavano was preparing for the worst.
Pavano, who had been rehabbing in Fort Myers in early August after missing two months with shoulder discomfort, was still experiencing pain and low velocity. And in his mind, he figured Dr. Altchek was going to tell him he needed surgery, which, he thought, could signal the end of his major league career.
As it turned out, Altchek told Pavano he did not have a torn rotator cuff, nor did he have a torn labrum. Surgery would not be required. Instead, Altchek determined Pavano had bruising on his right humerus bone -- an ailment that required rest, not more rehab.
This diagnosis brought mixed emotions for Pavano, who has expressed frustration with how the situation played out, telling the Pioneer Press last month, "It's too bad it took three months to diagnose that. I could have been resting."
But a torn labrum or rotator cuff might have signaled the end for Pavano, who turns 37 this offseason. Dr. Altchek told Pavano he believes the shoulder ailment will heal, given proper rest, so that's what the veteran has been doing for the last three weeks, and that's what he will continue to do until further notice. He will not pitch again this season, and he likely will not throw again until December.
"I'm just really focused on now, and just every day continually feeling better," said Pavano, who will spend the week in Minnesota before heading back to Florida for the offseason, "and just keep with the program and finally get to the point where... I would usually start throwing in December in the offseason, and that's probably what I'll do this year -- with a little bit extra rest."
He added, "Physically, this year was just a handicap for me -- a handicap year, just something that we exhausted every option to get through, and it ended up being something that needs time to rest, and that I wasn't able to pitch with or be successful with. ... Now we kind of know why, and I can move on from that and get a game plan moving forward, and hopefully everything gets resolved from a physical standpoint. ...
"The doctors told me that the bone bruise was just weakening the whole shoulder joint so much that even what I got out of it was pretty surprising, from strength-wise and being able to compete (with) borderline average stuff."
While grinding through shoulder discomfort, Pavano's fastball sat mostly in the 85 to 87-mph range. In previous seasons, his fastball sat between 88 and 92 mph with more life and movement.
"I think the velocity was really affected by the strength of that shoulder from the inflammation that was in there," Pavano said. "So I feel like once that's out of there, I feel like it just makes the shoulder joint stronger. ...
"I feel like that'll all be there. But as you get older some of those things diminish. So we don't know until I get to that point, and that's far ahead of me."
When asked how many more years, in an ideal world, he would like to pitch, Pavano joked, "I was thinking at least, probably 15 more after this season."
He then said, "I mean, it comes down to what your body will let you do. My mind, I feel like -- you guys know, as you get older, you get more experience -- mentally you get stronger in the progression. It's unfortunate that this is a very physically demanding job, and the older you get, those things diminish. So long as physically I feel like I could put the work in to get out there every day, there's years ahead of me. But I don't know until I do it."
For Pavano, time is everything, and his clock is ticking. The right-hander's two-year, $16.5 million contract officially comes off the books in October, but Twins general manager Terry Ryan has expressed interest in bringing the veteran back next season if he's healthy, presumably on a low-risk, incentive-laden deal.
Prior to this season, Pavano had mostly been a workhorse for the Twins. Over the last three-plus seasons, Pavano owns a 4.32 ERA in Minnesota in 579 2/3 innings, with 311 strikeouts and only 101 walks.
But until he starts throwing again this offseason, Pavano's status -- as it relates to the Twins and to his career, in general -- will remain uncertain.