Pavano Steadying Twins Shaky Starting Staff

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Carl Pavano

Minnesota Twins pitcher Carl Pavano has had his share of ups and downs.

Coming off an 18 win season with Florida in 2004 in which he was an All-Star and ranked eighth in the majors in ERA, disappointment has followed.

Going to the superior hitting AL and a high pressure New York Yankee market, Pavano couldn’t live up to the hype.

Only starting a total of 26 games in three seasons, injuries plagued the prime of his career and it looked as if the world champion Florida Marlin Carl Pavano was nothing but a distant memory.

But two full seasons of health, largely spent with the Minnesota Twins, has got Pavano looking like his old self again.

This is great to see for the organization considering the inconsistency of the rest of the Twins starting pitching staff.

After starting the season on fire, logging a 0.93 ERA and three wins in April, Francisco Liriano has come back to earth, with only two wins and an ERA nearing five since the season’s first month.

Scott Baker, who has been considered the Twins rock of the rotation the last two years, has been catastrophically disappointing, capped by a five run, five inning outing in which he picked up his fifth loss of the season against the Royals Thursday.  Baker hasn’t shown any sign of being the shutdown pitcher he was supposed to be for the Twins, sitting at 5-5 with a 4.81 ERA.

Nick Blackburn, who led Twins starters in ERA last year and had an undefeated May, has been sloppy even in victories.  In months that are not May, Blackburn is 1-3 with an ERA approaching ten, and has more walks than strikeouts in those months.

Nick Blackburn

Rounding out the rotation is Kevin Slowey, who has shown improvement, but the stats can sometimes be deceiving.  Slowey, as he did last year when he posted a 4.8 ERA and had ten wins, continues to rack up the W’s despite a May ERA of 4.55.  Needless to say, Kevin Slowey is Zach Greinke’s sworn enemy.

That brings us back to Pavano, who, while not having mind blowing, off the chart sexy numbers, has been a model of consistency.  His six wins is ninth in the AL, and his eight quality starts is second on the team.  In the 12 games he has started this year, he has allowed two earned runs or less in eight of them.

How then, can he have six losses?  In those six losses, he has only gotten 11 runs of support from his offense.  Pavano and Greinke vent to each other on a start by start basis.

The Twins have become notorious over the last decade for taking in veteran pitchers and revitalizing their careers.  Kenny Rogers, Rick Reed, and Carlos Silva all have gone on to have success after the Twins took them in.  They’ve also been known for taking in older pitchers that haven’t exactly worked out.  Terry Mulholland and Sidney Ponson were gambles that didn’t pay off, and with Pavano it could’ve gone either way.

But the 34 year-old Pavano has certainly earned his keep on this team, and this year more than ever it is extremely important that it stays that way, because his veteran presence will be key to help this young pitching staff deal with the stretch run and possibly the playoffs, where Pavano’s 1.71 ERA in nine games speaks for itself.

Pavano is without a doubt the key to this rotation, and these five starters will have to be on point going forward because of the lack of other options.  The last man out of the rotation for the Twins was Glen Perkins, who currently is at AAA Rochester.  He has struggled mightily for the Red Wings, posting a 3-5 record with a 5.2 ERA.  Obviously we won’t be seeing him anytime soon with the big league club.

People may not know the name Brad Radke extremely well, but he gave the Twins 11 years of solid pitching that wasn’t sexy, but was very effective.  He was the rock in the starting five for Minnesota in his time here, and he was instrumental to mentoring younger pitchers that eventually led to the Twins turnaround from cellar dweller to perennial AL Central champion.

Pavano is doing the same type of things Radke did, and whether a comparison to Radke is considered a good thing by the masses or not, around the Twins organization it is one of the highest compliments you can get.

-Mike Gallagher

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