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03/25/09 7:55 PM ET

No longer idle, Pavano impresses club

Starter takes big step on comeback trail with six-inning outing

PEORIA, Ariz. -- On Wednesday morning, the Indians' starting rotation was completed, with the additions of Scott Lewis and Anthony Reyes.

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On Wednesday afternoon, it definitely started to look better.

Carl Pavano, already penciled in as the No. 3 starter despite a pregame ERA of 9.82, pitched up to that billing with an impressive six-inning outing against the Padres.

Pavano held the Padres to two runs, setting up the Indians' 8-4 victory and eliciting praise all around.

"He threw well," said Cleveland manager Eric Wedge. "He did a good job locating his fastball and mixed in some good changeups. He was strong and consistent."

And efficient, needing only 77 pitches to navigate the six innings -- 53 of them strikes. So efficient, he retreated to the bullpen post-outing to throw 15 more.

"It was a positive. I can walk away from this with quite a few positives," Pavano said. "It was definitely better than the last couple of times. I felt great and stayed strong.

"A couple of times my pitches fell flat. But I was able to get it back. Up to this, I'd had a frustrating time making adjustments."

Pavano had some shaky moments, particularly in the third, when not only did the Padres score their two runs but all his outs came on long drives to the outfield. But Pavano recovered from Henry Blanco's leadoff homer and David Eckstein's RBI single to rebound with a quiet fourth and blanked San Diego for the remainder of the six-inning start, his longest of the spring.

Although Pavano had only one three-up, three-down frame and allowed seven hits -- while striking out two without a walk -- that third was the only inning in which he gave up more than one.

Since Pavano went six innings and allowed two runs, the outing qualified for the debatable "quality start." Significant? Whether or not you believe in the concept, Pavano had only two quality starts over the past three seasons, one each in 2007 and 2008.

Ah, yes. The Bronx years, when his frequent injuries earned him a nickname from the New York press: the American Idle.

No one had a bigger burden entering this Spring Training than Pavano, who had just nine wins in the past four years and a $38 million Yankees contract.

"The toughest part has been the anxiety."
-- Carl Pavano on his comeback

"We go out there for respect all the time," Pavano said Wednesday. "But you can go overboard trying to analyze all that stuff. You can only control so much. You've got to let it go; you can't harp on it forever. Backing off can only lead to success."

Analyze this: According to the Indians' rotation, and barring rainouts, Pavano is set to make his third start on April 19 in Yankee Stadium. If he has regained all of his game, that is a date that has to excite him.

"He's been very consistent with his program all spring," Wedge lauded. "I appreciate his approach, and it will pay off for him."

Wedge did not mean that literally -- but could have. Pavano's $1.5 million guarantee with the Indians could jump by $5.3 million based on starts and innings pitched.

Pavano credited another Carl, pitching coach Willis, with providing the "key" that kept him, as Wedge said, "online" during Wednesday's outing.

"He said to stay on the rubber longer," Pavano explained. "Carl simplified it for me. That's a sign of a great pitching coach, to be able to pick up something like that and tell you how to deal with it."

If you suspect the former American Idle of being anxious to win over the Simon Cowells of the world, you are correct.

"The toughest part has been the anxiety," Pavano said of his comeback mission. "Having patience that things will come back. You want things to come quicker than is natural. I battle with that every day."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.