Commentary

This isn't your Yankees' Carl Pavano

Twins righty proves that one team's American Idle is another team's warrior

Updated: October 7, 2010, 7:27 PM ET
By Andrew Marchand | ESPNNewYork.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- It is as if Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire were in an alternate universe.

First, he called his ALDS Game 2 starter, Carl Pavano, a "warrior," and then he compared Pavano to postseason legend Jack Morris, which seemed utterly ridiculous.

But you know what? You know who didn't dispute Gardenhire's assessment? The legend himself, Jack Morris, that's who.

Morris said Pavano was The Man for Minnesota this season. He was the guy to stop losing streaks.

[+] EnlargeCarl Pavano
William Perlman/The Star-Ledger/US PresswireCarl Pavano pitched 221 innings this season. He pitched 145 2/3 in four years with the Yankees.

"He knows what he is doing," Morris said, standing against the railing of the Twins dugout at Target Field before Game 1 against the New York Yankees. "Here is the thing with Carl: He has a plan and if his control is good enough, his plan usually works."

Morris said Gardenhire knew his mentality as well as anyone because in 1991 their Twins lockers were next to each other. Gardenhire, as the third-base coach then, heard Morris demanding the ball, wanting to pitch every day. Gardenhire now is hearing an echo from the 34-year-old Pavano.

"[Pavano] wants the ball every five days and every time you screw with that, he gets a little irritated," Gardenhire said.

Were Gardenhire and Morris talking about the same Pavano who was in New York? You know, the guy who made a grand total of 26 starts during a four-year stretch in which he was paid nearly $40 million? The Yankee who once missed action with what was described as a bruised buttocks? The man who will indelibly be known in New York tabloid lore as "American Idle" -- that Carl Pavano?

"He's always trying to be a perfectionist," Gardenhire said.

Apparently, that is Minnesota Carl. New York Carl was known for imperfection.

With the Twins, Pavano has been everything the Yankees hoped he would be for them. Last year, he had his first playoff reunion with the Yankees, pitching seven innings and allowing just two runs.

The Twins lost that Game 3, but Pavano showed the playoff mettle that enamored Yankees GM Brian Cashman when Pavano's Marlins won the World Series in 2003.

In 2010, his first full season with the Twins, Pavano went 17-11 with a 3.75 ERA and started 32 times -- or six more times than he did in his four Yankees seasons.

"He has success because he knows how to feed off a hitter's weakness," said Morris, who does some radio work for the Twins these days.

Minnesota Carl is not a pushover, but it still seems a little more than a stretch to compare him to the legendary Morris, even if Morris took it as a compliment more than anything else. Morris pitched for four World Series-winning teams and, in one of the great postseason pitching performances, threw 10 shutout innings to beat the Braves in 1991.

"I wanted to pitch every day if I could," Morris said.

From Joe Torre to Mike Mussina, Pavano was criticized as a Yankee for not wanting to pitch.

Pavano left New York with a legacy that would place him in a Monument Park of failures. Next to plaques of guys like Ed Whitson and Kei Igawa, Pavano's might be as large as George Steinbrenner's actual monument.

"There wasn't much good that actually went on," Pavano said of his Bronx tenure.

Pavano did mention pitching Opening Day in 2007, but Morris wished Pavano had given a better answer about New York.

"I wish he would have said, 'Yeah, I persevered,'" Morris said. "Even though he was making a lot of money ... that was probably a terribly tough time for him. That has to be the best and worst of times all at once, to be wealthy and have people dislike you."

Pavano has handed Yankees fans a lot of misery. If he really is Jack Morris on Thursday night, he will inflict a little more.

Andrew Marchand covers baseball for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

More from ESPNNewYork.com »

Andrew Marchand is a senior writer for ESPNNewYork. He also regularly contributes to SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, ESPNews, ESPN New York 98.7 FM and ESPN Radio. He joined ESPN in 2007 after nine years at the New York Post. Follow Andrew on Twitter »

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