Pavano treats Yanks tenure as ancient history
On eve of Game 2 start, righty focused on a Twins victory
MINNEAPOLIS -- Carl Pavano entered last year's American League Division Series as a hated former Yankees pitcher matching up against his old club. As he prepares for a postseason rematch on Thursday at 5 p.m. CT on TBS and MLB.TV at Target Field, he should be able to stand on his post-New York merits now.
A 17-win season with the Twins will do that.
"I'm a professional. I've been doing this for a while," Pavano said Wednesday afternoon. "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. Our staff is strong, and I feel I need to keep doing what I have been doing all year."
The Twins would gladly take a Thursday effort similar to what Pavano has been doing this season. For that matter, they'd probably take what he did against the Yankees last October.
With the roar of a packed crowd at the Metrodome, Pavano retired the first eight Yankees he faced and took a three-hit shutout bid through six innings. He took the mound for the seventh inning with his first lead of the night thanks to a Joe Mauer RBI single. Once he got a groundout from Mark Teixeira, he was eight outs away from keeping the Twins' postseason hopes alive.
Then came Alex Rodriguez, who worked the count full before sending a line drive out for a game-tying home run. Two batters later, Jorge Posada did the same, putting Pavano and the Twins down for good.
Pavano's lesson unfolded about as quickly as his lead.
"Don't give up any homers," he deadpanned Wednesday. "I was aggressive. I didn't walk anybody. I went seven innings and got beat on two pitches late in the game. And you know, sometimes you lose those games. And I feel if I go out there and give that same effort, I think we will have a good chance to win that ballgame."
To Yankees fans, it was sweet revenge on a familiar face. He was in pinstripes in four seasons because of a free-agent contract after the 2004 season, but he was on the disabled list for much of it. He never made a postseason appearance for the Yankees, and he pitched in just 26 regular-season games for them -- just nine from 2006-08.
To the Twins, however, he was a late-season savior -- an August trade acquisition from Cleveland that paid off sweet dividends to help Minnesota overtake Detroit in the AL Central.
"We needed a veteran; we had a bunch of younger starters," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He came in and showed the way, took the ball. He's one of those warriors for us, and just goes out there and doesn't like to miss a start, doesn't like to be backed up."
This year, he was a full-time Twin and a staff ace. Among his 17 wins are a league-best total of seven complete games, two of them shutouts, and 221 innings. He made 32 starts for the first time since 2003.
Gardenhire compared Pavano's ironman status to Jack Morris, who was sitting in the back of the interview room. Morris heard it and later said Gardenhire was just picking on him.
Morris had a better comparison: Frank Tanana, a former flamethrowing All-Star in the 1970s who rebounded from surgery to have a second career as a legitimate finesse pitcher.
"When Frankie was dealing in those years when he didn't have his fastball, he knew how to pitch," Morris said. "He could run it in, take a little off, put a little on. He knew how to pitch. Carl knows how to pitch."
In the process of pitching this year, Pavano put his Bronx history a little further behind him.
"It's so far in the past," Pavano said. "There are no do-overs. You learn from your mistakes and you move on. You know, I really don't look on it as a bad thing. I'm in a good position now. That's all that really matters."
That, of course, set up the question of whether he felt anything good came out of his time in New York. He had to think about that one.
"That's a good question, actually," he said. "There wasn't much good actually that went on."
The interview room broke into laughter. Two years separated from pinstripes, Pavano could chuckle, too.