By Jon Lane
Ron Gardenhire officially named Carl Pavano (yes, him) his Game 3 starter. Apparently old Pav emerged from that pregame embrace unscathed.
Give Pavano this: He stayed healthy and pitched well at times, and shared a good line with reporters Wednesday night about being heavily booed during pregame introductions.
“Hey, I don’t blame them,” Pavano said. “I’d boo me too after the four years I spent here.”
The normally genial and eloquent Gardenhire was vague as to why Pavano was selected over Scott Baker and his team-leading 15 wins to start the potential elimination game for the Twins, placing the onus of the decision on pitching coach Rick Anderson.
“Pavano will be pitching,” Gardenhire said. “They made sure to tell me that just announce Pavano. [Anderson] doesn’t want to answer any more questions about it. Pavano will be pitching Game 3, Baker four.”
Baker started Tuesday’s epic one-game playoff against the Tigers, pitching six innings, and would have taken his turn on a regular four days of rest, whereas Pavano last pitched on October 4. Gardenhire cut off a question about the thought process behind the choice of the enigmatic and embattled Pavano over his staff ace.
“Because my pitching coach said Pavano,” Gardenhire said. “That’s the thought process. That’s as far as we have to go.”
No need to rehash Pavano’s wonderful four-season tenure in New York, where he was paid $39.5 million for making a grand total of 26 starts. Conversely, the right-hander started 33 games for the Twins and Indians while pitching to a 2.70 ERA in two starts against the Yankees. And while Baker has never started a playoff game, Pavano posted a 1.00 ERA for the Marlins in the 2003 World Series, including the eight innings of one-run ball in Game 4 against New York that made him the most sought-after free agent pitcher on the market that winter.
Little did the Yankees know what they’d receive on their return investment. The Twins, however, acquired Pavano in an August trade with the Indians for a player to be named later and were rewarded with a 5-4 record and a 4.64 ERA in 12 starts.
When Nick Blackburn takes the ball in Game 2 Friday night, he’ll have a stronger support system. Closer Joe Nathan will be available along with set-up man Jesse Crain, who was held out of Game 1 with a sore groin.
“This time of year everybody says they’re ready to pitch,” Gardenhire said. “Nathan needed it for sure. That was a bad thing we didn’t get to use him, but also a good thing. I think they’ll all be ready for tomorrow night.”
What does a manager do when his team is 0-8 against another while being outscored 48-27? Change your luck? Change hotels? No. But when you’re down 0-1 in a Division Series, there’s absolutely no room for error.
“You can’t make any mistakes,” Gardenhire said. “You can’t walk people. There have been a lot of late game losses for us just because they’re such professional hitters. If you make one mistake, they get you. I wish I had all the answers to say wow, this is why we lose here; this is why we don’t win. It’s not that simple. We have had our opportunities. We just haven’t come up with big hits.”
If you ask Denard Span, luck does play a role, and the Twins have had none in the Yankees’ plush new home.
“I think we had bad luck,” Span said. “We got walked off three times earlier in the year here. Three games that we if we get a big hit we would have won. I think every team has a team that they maybe don’t have good luck at certain places against and unfortunately, we just haven’t had good luck here. But I don’t think anybody in the clubhouse believes that there’s a hex or anything going on. We still believe we can win, beat the Yankees.”
By Jon Lane
Game 163 for the Tigers and Twins will finally decide the AL Central and who plays the Yankees in the ALDS either Wednesday or Thursday. Probable starting pitchers are for the Tigers rookie Rick Porcello (14-9, 4.04 ERA) and Scott Baker (15-9, 4.36) for the Twins, who went on a 16-4 run since September 13 and a three-game sweep of the Royals to get to this point.
Because the Packers and Vikings are playing at the Metrodome Monday night, Tigers-Twins is Tuesday at 5 p.m.
Also on Tuesday, the Yankees will hold a workout at Yankee Stadium, where CC Sabathia, Joe Girardi and Mark Teixeira will meet the media in formal press conferences.
By Jon Lane
The Yankees left at 8 this morning for the 2 1/2-hour trek to Fort Myers for a game against the Minnesota Twins. Ian Kennedy starts for New York against Scott Baker.
Brett Gardner CF
Cody Ransom 2B
Nick Swisher 1B
Jorge Posada DH
Xavier Nady RF
Melky Cabrera LF
Angel Berroa SS
Justin Leone 3B
Francisco Cervelli C
Note that Nady, Swisher, Cabrera and Gardner all made the trip. Each are competing for playing time in the outfield, while Swisher starts at first base to get some at-bats. Normally, veterans like Posada don’t make these types of trips, but 1) yesterday was his first game action since last July 19 and 2) teams are required to send at least one of their big names on the road.
The Cabrera-Gardner competition will get press throughout the spring, but Nady-Swisher is an intriguing storyline. Speculation over whether either will be traded has died down for the moment. The hope here is that both remain on the roster. Both offer depth, and Swisher’s personality has been refreshing and contagious to a group that needs positive vibes given the A-Rod melodrama and the annual World Series or bust expectations.
You can track today’s game here. I’ll be listening to the Twins’ radio feed and will check in with updates from time to time.
1:24 p.m.: Already 2-0 Yankees and kick-started by Brett Gardner, who led off with a single, stole second and scored on Cody Ransom’s single (Ransom came home with the second run on a throwing error). It’s only Game 3, but you think Gardner is hungry to prove a point?
Ian Kennedy then retires the Twins in order.
1:32 p.m. Justin Leone’s one-out homer puts the Yankees ahead 3-0. It would have been four if not for Angel Berroa’s failed attempt to turn a leadoff single into a double.
1:35 p.m. Gardner, your 2009 Opening Day center fielder, is 2-for-2 with a single and a double.
2:01 p.m. The Yankees have eight hits in 2 1/2 innings, but left the bases loaded without scoring a run. Sound familiar?
Cabrera popped up with runners on second and third and one out. Remember that he’s out of options, so if Gardner wins the CF competition, the Yankees will either have to find a place for Cabrera or risk losing him should he not clear waivers.
2:04 p.m. Kennedy’s line: 2 innings, 1 hit, 0 runs, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts. He left a runner stranded at third to end the second.
2:17 p.m. Gardner drew a one-out walk, the third time he’s reached base. Minutes later he swiped second base. The Twins announcers said he has a little element of Lenny Dykstra, as in when he plays, you notice him.
2:23 p.m. Swisher flies out to end the threat. Still 3-0, Yankees
2:48 p.m. Cabrera grounded out to end the top of the fifth. He’s 0-for-3. Jorge Posada left the game after going 2-for-3. He is 4-for-5 in two games. 3-1, Yankees.
3:02 p.m. Austin Jackson pinch-hit for Gardner, who is batting .429 (3-for-7) with a homer and two stolen bases in three spring games.
3:20 p.m. Competition report: Cabrera finished hitless in three at-bats and is 0-for-5 in two games. Swisher went 2-for-3 and Nady 1-for-3.
4:17 p.m. Yankees lose 5-4 to fall to 2-1 on the Grapefruit Season. The Twins snuffed a late rally in the ninth.