MINNEAPOLIS - As Ron Gardenhire described Carl Pavano to reporters Wednesday as a workhorse, clubhouse leader and big-game pitcher, the Twins manager went so far as to invoke the name of a famed workhorse.
Pavano's desire to pitch is so intense, Gardenhire said, that it reminds him of - get this - Jack Morris.
That seemingly out-of-nowhere comparison surely surprised many people in the news conference room. But not everyone. "I was sitting there. That's why he did it," said Morris, one of the Twins' radio analysts. "The only times I listen to his press conferences, he somehow brings me in to stir it up. Good ol' Gardy."
So the Morris comparison was apparently as much an inside joke as it was a stunning compliment to the former Yankee pitcher. Still, the fact that the Twins manager could say such a thing with a straight face shows just how far Pavano has come since the days when his Yankees teammates openly questioned his desire to avoid pitching.
When Pavano takes the mound against the Yankees Thursday in Game 2 of the American League Division Series, the righthander won't be thinking about revenge. Only a handful of former teammates remain from his time in pinstripes and he insists he harbors no hard feelings. "It's so far in the past," Pavano said. "There are no do-overs. You learn from your mistakes and you move on."
And Pavano has done that well. A year after going 14-12 with a 5.10 ERA in 33 starts for the Twins and Indians, Pavano went 17-11 with a 3.75 ERA and an above-average 1.19 WHIP for the Twins this season. He also was an impressive innings-eater this year, logging 221 innings in 32 starts. "He wants the ball every five days and every time you screw with that, he gets a little irritated and we like that," Gardenhire said. "Because it shows the other guys a little bit about what we like to see."
The Yankees didn't see that version of Pavano during his four years in pinstripes, largely because of injuries. Pavano made only 26 starts after signing a $39.95-million, four-year contract in December 2004.
When Pavano was asked to expand on the positives that he said he took out of his time with the Yankees, he laughed and amended his answer. "There wasn't much good actually that went on," he said.
Morris was in the room for that interview, as well, and he said afterward that Pavano should have given a different answer. "I wish he would have said, 'Yeah, I persevered,' " Morris said. "Because that was probably a terribly tough time for him, even though he was making a lot of money. It's got to be the best and worst of times all at once, to be wealthy and have people dislike you."
Pavano knows he'll get booed when his name is announced at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, and he understands why. He laughs at that now, just like he laughs at himself, because he's moved on.
"That's all in the past," he said, "so what are you going to do?"