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Updated: April 8th, 2011 7:25pm
Twins Daily: Carl Pavano throws a gem in home-opener victory over A's

Twins Daily: Carl Pavano throws a gem in home-opener victory over A's

by Phil Mackey
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Carl Pavano blinked first, but Brett Anderson blinked last, as the Minnesota Twins scored two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to edge the Oakland Athletics 2-1 in the home opener at Target Field on Friday.

The skinny

A two-out eighth-inning offensive rally will receive the most attention, but Pavano's bounce-back gem is what kept the Twins in the game.

Fresh off giving up seven earned runs in only four innings in the season-opener against Toronto last week, the right-hander pitched eight innings, allowing just one earned run on four hits, walking one and striking out one.

"I think (pitching coach Rick Anderson) jumped his ass a little bit about being a little lethargic out there," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Sometimes you overcompensate. You don't want to be too excited, and Andy got on him a little bit -- told him, 'let's pick up the pace,' and there you go. And that's kind of the way it went. He did, and the ball started snapping out of his hand a little bit better."

Pavano's lone earned run came in a first inning where he walked a batter, made a throwing error, allowed a base hit and a stolen base.

He said he was a bit anxious, mostly "because I fell flat on my face in Toronto."

Turning point

Twins bats have been mostly silent through the first week of the season, and that was the case Friday as well -- until the eighth inning, when back-to-back RBI singles by Denard Span and Joe Mauer off Anderson turned a 1-0 late-game deficit into a 2-1 victory.

The rally started with a one-out infield single by Danny Valencia. After Luke Hughes flew out to left field, pinch-hitter Jason Kubel delivered a two-out single to right, allowing Valencia to reach third base. Span and Mauer followed with the hammer shots.

"He just had everything going today," Span said about Anderson. "We couldn't find an answer for him. I think later on, in the eighth inning, he got ... a little tired maybe, a little lackadaisical. He started just leaving the ball over the plate just a little bit. But even the balls that we did hit, we didn't hit them very hard, but great placement."

Numbers game

1,000: Morneau's first-inning infield single was his 1,000th career hit. Morneau joins Harmon Killebrew, Kent Hrbek, Kirby Puckett, Tony Oliva, Gary Gaetti, Rod Carew and Torii Hunter as the only eight Twins players with 1,000 hits, 200 doubles and 500 RBI.

1: The number of career appearances for Joe Nathan at Target Field. He came out to a standing ovation and pitched a scoreless ninth for his third save of the season. The save was also the 250th of Nathan's career.

8: The number of innings thrown by Pavano on Friday. Pavano pitched at least eight innings in 11 of his 32 starts last season.

2: The number of pickoffs in Pavano's career after he caught Coco Crisp leaning to end the eighth inning.

4.44: Pavano's career ERA in 170 1/3 innings with Joe Mauer behind the plate, prior to Friday's gem. Hitters have posted a .278/.313/.448 line off the duo, and those numbers obviously look much worse after Pavano took a beating in Toronto last week. A lot has been made of whether Drew Butera should continue to be Pavano's personal catcher. Manager Ron Gardenhire has said that Pavano prefers Butera because he provides a lower target.

3.65: Pavano's ERA in 106 innings with Butera behind the plate. Hitters have posted a .273/.304/.413 line off the Pavano/Butera combination.

Health watch

• RHP Kevin Slowey underwent an MRI for his sore biceps, and results showed biceps tendinitis.

"It's OK," Gardenhire said. "He's got a little tendinitis we're working our way through. We'll see where we go from there."

Gardenhire did not provide a time table for Slowey's return, nor did he mention a possible trip to the disabled list, but the right-hander has not pitched since April 4, and the team will monitor his progress carefully as he attempts to transition from starter to reliever.

"We're not going to take any chances with this kid's arm," Gardenhire told 1500 ESPN prior to Friday's game. "And if he can't do it out of the bullpen, we're going to have to flip a coin. I don't know where you go from there."

• 2B Tsuyoshi Nishioka (fractured fibula) is expected to miss 4-6 weeks, best-case scenario. He will not need a cast or surgery, and he's expected to remain on crutches until the swelling and soreness subsides.


"Carl got upset with me and threw me a right hook."
-- Mauer, jokingly, when asked by a reporter about the "shiner" under his right eye. In reality, Mauer simply missed a spot when wiping off his eye black.

On deck

Right-hander Nick Blackburn (1-0, 1.59 ERA) is scheduled to face left-hander Gio Gonzalez (1-0, 1.29 ERA) on Saturday (6:10 p.m., 1500 ESPN Twin Cities).

Coming off a marvelous spring, Blackburn threw 5 2/3 solid innings against a tough Toronto Blue Jays lineup last Sunday, allowing two runs (one earned) on six hits and a walk while striking out two. Oakland's current roster, however, owns a .343/.400/.600 batting line against Blackburn in 115 plate appearances.

Gonzalez has battled control problems throughout his young career, but the 25-year-old left-hander has tallied 318 strikeouts in 340 1/3 career innings to this point. Gonzalez faced an inept Mariners offense in his first start of the season, allowing just one earned run on six hits in seven innings. He walked four and struck out four.

Coming up

• Sunday: vs. Oakland, 1:10 p.m. RHP Scott Baker (0-1, 6.00) vs. RHP Brandon McCarthy (0-0, 4.50).
• Monday: Off.
• Tuesday: vs. Kansas City, 7:10 p.m. LHP Brian Duensing (0-0, 5.14) vs. LHP Jeff Francis (0-0, 1.98).

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