Pavano famously signed a lucrative free-agent contract with the Yankees in December 2004, and he spent the next four seasons battling various injuries and trying to get back to the mound. Pavano missed one season entirely and missed most of another due to Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, ending his time with the Yankees with 26 starts in four seasons.
The right-hander has made an impressive comeback in the last two seasons, though, combining for a 31-23 record and a 4.39 ERA for Cleveland and Minnesota. Pavano has pitched so well that the Yankees considered bringing him back for a second spin in the organization this past offseason, but that prospect was dashed by his decision to re-sign with the Twins.
Still, that interest was significant, and the Yankees have never tried to distance themselves from it. Manager Joe Girardi admitted as much during Spring Training, the last time Pavano took the mound against his former team.
"It was a possibility that he was going to be with us," Girardi said. "We talked about him, his name was thrown around and it never came to fruition. He's resurrected his career. He's pitched well for the Twins, and he's given them innings. When we've faced him in the playoffs, he's pitched well. The guy knows how to pitch. The big thing for Carl is he's been healthy."
The Yankees will counter with fellow veteran Freddy Garcia on Wednesday, setting up an interesting collision of pitchers with sturdy track records in the league. Pavano is 97-90 with a 4.37 ERA for his career, while Garcia is 133-87 with a 4.13 ERA. Pavano got hit hard in his season debut, giving up three home runs and seven earned runs in a 13-3 loss to Toronto.
Now, though, the Yankees are concerned that Pavano will rebound and show them his dead-level best.
"I knew he could pitch," said Girardi. "I wasn't really here much during his years of being hurt, but he had back [problems], he had elbow [problems], he had a cracked rib. His elbow injury was real -- he had Tommy John [surgery]. Fortunately for him, he's been healthy. Unfortunately for the Yankees, we got him when he was unhealthy. That happens sometimes when you sign [pitchers]. But he can pitch."
Twins: Keeping Morneau fresh a priority
The Twins kept first baseman Justin Morneau out of the starting lineup for some planned rest on Tuesday night, but he's expected back on Wednesday. Morneau, who entered Tuesday's 6-5 victory as a pinch-hitter, batted .152 in Spring Training, as the Twins slowly brought him back to full-time action. Morneau is batting just .188 through his first five games of the year.
Tsuyoshi Nisihioka, Minnesota's Japanese second baseman, has endured an interesting transition to the stateside game. Nishioka, a five-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove Award winner in his homeland, had one hit in Tuesday night's victory and is currently batting .250 with seven strikeouts in the first 20 at-bats of his burgeoning big league career.
Yankees: Garcia eager to prove ability
Garcia, 35 years old, was limited to just 23 starts and five victories between 2007 and '09 due to right shoulder woes. He resurfaced with the White Sox last year, healthy, and pitched to a 12-6 record and a 4.64 ERA. Garcia narrowly outpitched fellow veteran Bartolo Colon to earn the fifth starter's role in Spring Training and is looking forward to his season debut.
"I feel good -- I'd love to pitch every five days, but that's not the case this time," said Garcia. "They've got a pretty good lineup, man. You've got to go out there and execute your pitches and make it happen. That's all you can do."
The Twins are just 3-18 in their last 21 regular-season games against the Yankees and have won just seven of 38 games in New York under manager Ron Gardenhire. ... Minnesota closer Joe Nathan has two saves in his return from Tommy John surgery, which cost him all of last season. ... Minnesota slugger Jim Thome ranks eighth all-time with 589 home runs, 20 behind Sammy Sosa in seventh place. Thome has yet to homer this season. ... New York regulars Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano received their American League Gold Glove trophies as part of a ceremony before Tuesday's game. ... Teixeira, who batted .136 last April, is hitting .333 with 10 RBIs and six runs scored through New York's first five games.