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Updated: May 14th, 2012 11:28pm
Pavano's start 'encouraging,' but shoulder has been slow to improve

Pavano's start 'encouraging,' but shoulder has been slow to improve

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Despite allowing four earned runs in six innings, Carl Pavano -- battling discomfort in his throwing shoulder -- was able to reach back for some quality pitches in the Minnesota Twins 5-4 loss to the Cleveland Indians on Monday night.

Pavano's average fastball velocity was 87 mph with several 88s and a couple 89s mixed in -- a slight improvement from his previous few starts. He was also able to locate well for the most part, aside from hanging a changeup to Casey Kotchman, who blasted a two-run homer in the fifth inning.

"I think that's about as high as I've been all year," Pavano said, regarding his velocity, "so I think that's encouraging in the sense that that's what we're looking for -- strength and trying to get stronger. So I think that's definitely a good sign. ... It's going to just take time. There's no doubt about it."

Manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson made the decision to pull Pavano after only 72 pitches, marking the fourth consecutive start in which the 36-year-old righty has thrown fewer than 85 pitches.

Pavano had thrown 95 pitches or more in each his first four starts, and in 2011 he threw 88 pitches or more in 32 of his 33 outings.

"We could have run him back out there and got him close to 85 or 90 pitches, but we're trying to stay away from that right now with what he's going through," Gardenhire said. "He's not a guy that's going to say, 'I want out of here.' He's not going to do it. So we have to guard him."

Pavano didn't question the decision, nor did he even feel the need to discuss it with Gardenhire or Anderson.

"I think it was just a move today to try to give me a breather until I can get it a little stronger," said Pavano, who is on the last year of a two-year, $16.5 million contract. "I think you start getting your pitch counts up where I'm at shoulder-wise I think it does you more harm than good right now if you're starting to fatigue. ...

"So I think this was an opportunity to get Frankie (Liriano) in there and get him some clean innings and get me out of there with the pitch count down."

Pavano said Sunday that he has skipped at least one throwing session recently in order to "save bullets."

When asked if he and Anderson have been in constant communication about how his shoulder feels, Pavano said, "No, not at all. I'm depending on myself.

"It's been going on for long enough that I can compare (from) five, six weeks ago what it felt like. And it definitely feels like it's made improvement. Not the type of improvement that I'd like, but it's definitely made improvement and hasn't gotten worse. So you just try to stick to that and keep grinding it out."

Pavano's next start is scheduled for Saturday in Milwaukee. He said Sunday there's a chance he could get a cortisone shot if the discomfort persists.

"As a pitcher your arm doesn't always feel 100 percent, but with what I'm dealing with there's days where it bothers me more than others. But I've been able to get through it and on my fifth day I feel good enough to go out there and compete. That's the most important thing."

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: Ron Gardenhire, Carl Pavano
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