Pavano starts spring-opening win, says playoff sweep 'drives me'
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Minnesota Twins opened the 2011 Grapefruit League schedule with an 8-4 win over the Boston Red Sox at Hammond Stadium on Sunday night.
Right-hander Carl Pavano threw 26 pitches over two scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out two.
"My goal out there was to use my fastball and establish my fastball down and move it around the plate, so I did that," Pavano said. "I kept the ball on the ground. I was hoping to be a little quicker out of the stretch, but that's going to take a little bit of time. As you guys know, that's not exactly my strong point.
"Start the clock. This is part of the process."
Pavano, who said he plans on throwing three or four more innings in his next spring start, still hasn't quite gotten over the sting of back-to-back playoff sweeps at the hands of the New York Yankees -- a team he nearly re-signed with as a free agent this past offseason.
In fact, the last time Pavano took the mound in a game of any kind, he allowed four earned runs on 10 hits and a walk in six innings to the Yankees in Game 2 of the ALDS -- a game the Twins lost 5-2.
"Yeah, it definitely drives me," Pavano said.
"Our accomplishments to win the division were met. Our accomplishments to move further into the playoffs than the year before were not. So yeah, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth and we didn't accomplish much I guess. It's not good. We did get there. It's an accomplishment, but we want to do better. To think about that now doesn't really do us any good. We've got 162 games. We've got to win ballgames before we really worry about what's going to go on in October."
Pavano is scheduled to start the season-opener at Toronto on April 1. Coincidentally, the only other time Pavano started on opening day was with the Yankees in 2007.
"Kind of by default, but it was an opening day," Pavano said. "We had half our staff go down with injuries, and I was the only one standing."
He added, perhaps only half-jokingly, "Could you figure in New York I was the only one standing? Who would have thought that?"
Pavano allowed four earned runs in 4 1/3 innings against the Tampa Bay Rays that day. His next start -- against the Twins at the Metrodome -- was his last before undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery.
The Twins, and Pavano, are hoping things turn out a bit differently this time around.
A successful debut for Nishioka
Second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka had an action-packed first inning in his major-league, spring-training debut, making two sliding stops behind Pavano on defense and hitting a hard groundball to shortstop in his first at-bat.
Nishioka was thrown out on the play, but manager Ron Gardenhire was still impressed.
"It was a great swing, but I watched him run down the line. He can fly. I mean, we know he can run, but he can fly. He was flying. That's kind of what we like."
Nishioka popped up to the catcher in his second at-bat, but blooped an RBI single off Hideki Okajima in the fifth inning to score Joe Benson from third.
"I asked him after two at bats if that's enough, and he said he'd like one more because he felt like he was brand new playing baseball, which I like," Gardenhire said. "I like that a lot. He was having some fun."
Gardenhire then joked, "We tried to get the ball for him, but we'll save that for the season."
Nishioka said he wasn't nervous, but "once the starting lineup was called and my name was called on the screen, it was a very special moment for me."
As for communicating with shortstop Alexi Casilla, Nishioka said, "I think it has transitioned very well. And even though we understand the language, we have eye contact and communicate."