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12/08/09 12:41 AM EST

Pavano accepts Twins' arbitration offer

Right-hander, club could still negotiate multi-year deal

INDIANAPOLIS -- Carl Pavano will be pitching for the Twins again in 2010 after accepting the club's offer of arbitration on Monday night.

Pavano, 33, informed the Twins before the 10:59 p.m. CT deadline on Monday that he accepted their offer and by doing so, the right-hander is now locked into the Twins' 2010 roster.

The veteran pitcher had drawn interest from a handful of other teams besides the Twins since becoming a free agent last month. Pavano's agent, Tom O'Connell, met with those teams to explore the possibility of Pavano going elsewhere, but, in the end, the pitcher felt the best fit for him was to return to the Twins.

"Carl just really thinks that team is ready to win now," said O'Connell. "He thinks it's a tremendous group of guys. He loves the coaching staff and we felt it was the best opportunity for Carl Pavano to win another world championship.

Pavano saw his career gain new life in 2009 when he bounced back from four injury-plagued seasons in New York to go 14-12 with a 5.10 ERA over 199 1/3 innings combined for the Indians and Twins.

The Twins acquired Pavano in early August when their rotation had fallen apart, and he went 5-4 with a 4.64 ERA in 12 starts for the club. Pavano helped Minnesota make a late push to win its fifth American League Central title in eight seasons and pitched Game 3 of the ALDS against the Yankees, allowing two runs over seven innings to earn a tough-luck loss.

"Carl was a huge contributor to our division championship this year in two months," Twins general manager Bill Smith said. "We had a lot of good reports on him. He's great in the clubhouse. He's a competitor, as evidence he pitched that last Sunday [regular-season] game on three days' rest. We know that he's a hard worker and that he'll do everything he can to carry over the success he had this year with us to 2010."

Having made just 26 starts over those four years with the Yankees, Pavano signed a one-year, $1.5 million base salary contract with the Indians as a free agent last winter. He wound up earning close to $4.35 million thanks to his incentive-laden deal. He's now expected to draw a large raise through arbitration, although the two sides will likely try to work out a deal before an arbitration hearing is necessary.

The Twins had been adamant about their desire to sign a veteran starting pitcher this winter and Pavano had always been right near the top of their list. The club had planned to keep pursuing Pavano if he had rejected the arbitration offer.

Pavano's decision to accept arbitration alleviates one offseason need for the Twins and also marks an unusual occurrence for the Twins. Smith acknowledged earlier in the day that it's rare for a free agent to accept a team's offer of arbitration and said that he couldn't remember a Twins player ever accepting such an offer previously.

With Pavano set to return, the Twins now have four starters inked for the rotation for 2010. Right-handers Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey are all expected to be locks for the rotation as well.

There is now expected to be a significant competition for the fifth spot in the rotation during Spring Training. Among the Twins' options for that fifth spot will be left-handers Glen Perkins, Brian Duensing and Francisco Liriano and right-handers Boof Bonser, Anthony Swarzak and Jeff Manship.

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