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Updated: October 7th, 2010 1:56am
Mackey: Pavano won't bite on something-to-prove-against-Yankees angle

Mackey: Pavano won't bite on something-to-prove-against-Yankees angle

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by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- In the wake of a 6-4 loss to the New York Yankees in Game 1 of the American League Division Series, the Minnesota Twins find themselves in a difficult position, needing to win three out of the next four games.

That being the case, it's probably not a stretch to say the Twins, who have now lost their last 10 postseason games, really need to win Game 2.

And it'll be up to Carl Pavano -- with his rich history both for and against the Yankees -- to guide the way.

Pavano signed a four-year, $38 million contract with the Bombers after posting a 3.00 ERA and 3.54 FIP in 222 1/3 innings as a 29-year-old for the Marlins in 2004. At the time, he was one of the premiere free agent targets on the market.

Over the course of that contract, Pavano tallied nearly as many 60-day disabled list stints (4) as wins (9). He missed the second half of 2005 with a shoulder injury, he missed all of 2006 with a back injury, and an elbow injury knocked him out for almost all of 2007 and 2008.

Pavano wound up pitching only 145 2/3 innings over four seasons -- with 100 of those innings coming in 2005 alone -- posting a 5.00 ERA and 1.46 WHIP.

To make matters worse, Pavano wasn't exactly the most popular guy in New York. And to be honest, it's somewhat understandable on the surface -- he was injured for the better part of four years, and when he was healthy he wasn't effective.

In fact, check out this excerpt from a 2009 New York Times blog, referencing former Yankee manager Joe Torre's biography:

In no uncertain terms, the signing of Carl Pavano before the 2005 season is presented as a symbol of the Yankees' impending decline. According to the book, Pavano had once been at the top of Torre's wish list. But Torre still suspected Pavano might be a problem after a chance meeting at a restaurant in West Palm Beach, Fla. At a wedding rehearsal dinner, the book says, Torre saw Pavano as awkward and ill at ease and began to worry that he might underperform in the New York crucible.

Torre's fears materialized. Injury followed injury - including a car accident in 2006 - and Pavano seemed all too happy to take his time rehabilitating. Torre was especially irked, the book says, about Pavano's apparent disregard for his responsibility to his teammates.

And, it seems that by spring training in 2006, Torre had caught wind of the clubhouse's dislike for Pavano. Instead of protecting him, Torre had Pavano join the squad for their final spring training trip and effectively threw him to the wolves.

"They can see him, get on him, whatever they're going to do to him," Torre said in the book.

When asked about his time in the Big Apple -- a place where he is still vilified -- Pavano sometimes bristles. Other times he simply directs attention toward the future.

"It's so far in the past, there are no do-overs," Pavano said. "You learn from your mistakes and you move on. You know, I really don't look back on it as a bad thing. I mean, I'm in a good position now, that's all that really matters."

One reporter on Wednesday actually took a slightly different point of view and asked Pavano if there were any positives he has taken from his experiences in New York.

"You know, that's a good question actually," Pavano said. "There wasn't much good actually that went on (laughs). I got to start Opening Day one year due to some injuries to the staff, that was exciting. I ended up having an elbow surgery that year, but I did get to start Opening Day. And I did get to put on a Yankees uniform, which as a kid that is something I dreamed about. So all that was definitely fun.

"But, you know, it is definitely overshadowed by some of the things that went on that I didn't enjoy as far as injuries and stuff. But like I said, that's all in the past, so what are you going to do?"

Since his departure, Pavano has faced the Yankees three times, including once at Yankee Stadium in April of 2009 as a member of the Cleveland Indians. Pavano was greeted with boos, yet he still pitched six solid innings, allowing only one earned run on four hits.

Fast forward to August, 2009; Pavano flew under the radar during the first four months of that 2009 season. He posted a non-descript 5.37 ERA with 19 home runs allowed in 125 2/3 innings for the Indians, but his 4.28 FIP, his 3.83/1 K/BB ratio, and his newfound durability suggested there was value to be had.

The Twins recognized this as well and traded for Pavano on August 7, 2009. He made 12 starts for the Twins down the stretch, posting a 4.64 ERA and a 3.50 FIP while tallying 59 strikeouts to just 16 walks in 73 2/3 innings.

In October of last year, Pavano took the hard-luck loss against the Yankees in Game 3 of the ALDS, even though he allowed just two earned runs -- both solo homers -- on five hits in seven innings while striking out nine and walking nobody.

In 2003, starting Game 4 of the World Series as a member of the Florida Marlins, Pavano held the Yankees to one earned run on seven hits in eight innings while striking out four.

"I was new to it all," Pavano said about his World Series start. "We knew we were facing (Roger) Clemens and possibly his last start, but there was a lot of stuff that went along with that. But we got there on character and sticking together as a team and doing the little things and pitching. And we knew if we continued to do that, that that would take care of our challenge of that game. And we ended up winning that game and going on to win the World Series after that."

As for his postseason outing against the Yankees in 2009, when asked what he would have done differently, Pavano responded, "Don't give up any homers."

Heading into Thursday night's crucial start against New York, Pavano said earlier in the week, "Physically, I feel a lot better (now) than I did going into the postseason (last year), because I hadn't been in that position in innings and volume."

If the Twins lose Game 2, needless to say, they're in big trouble. In fact, down 1-0, they might already be in big trouble.

Pressure levels are high.

But revenge levels apparently aren't. Pavano says he has nothing to prove to New York.

"No, not at all," Pavano said. "I'm a professional. I have been doing this awhile. My job is, I have a Twins uniform on and my job is to go out and pitch. I have been doing it all season."

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
In this story: Carl Pavano
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