Gardy: If Pavano’s not healthy, he won’t play

For a pitcher who prides himself on being an innings-eater, Twins starter Carl Pavano’s last two outings have been two steps backward, a disappointing trend for the 36-year-old right-hander.

Pavano was pulled from Friday’s game in Cleveland after just 3-2/3 innings, one start after lasing only 4-1/3 innings against Detroit. He allowed seven runs (six earned) on nine hits Friday, including a grand slam. It was Pavano’s shortest start since April 18, 2010, when he went just 3-1/3 innings for the Twins against Kansas City.

“It just didn’t go his way,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Pavano.

Pavano escaped a scoreless first inning thanks to a sliding catch by left fielder Josh Willingham. The play robbed Jose Lopez of a base hit and stranded Jason Kipnis on the base paths.

But Pavano went on to give up runs in each of the next three innings. Lonnie Chisenhall hit a two-run homer in the second inning, driving in Johnny Damon and giving Cleveland a 2-0 lead. Chisenhall’s homer came on an 0-2 pitch from Pavano.

“I think he tried to throw a slider down and just didn’t get it in the dirt,” Gardenhire said. “The guy put a nice swing on the ball that really wasn’t a strike. But normally with Carl, he gets that ball where he wants to, down and off the plate. . . . He didn’t get it to where he wanted to, and it wasn’t that bad of a pitch.”

After Michael Brantley doubled in an unearned run in the third inning, the Indians delivered the knockout punch in the form of a Jason Kipnis grand slam. Pavano loaded the bases by giving up a one-out single to Chisenhall, then walking Lou Marson and giving up another base hit to Shin-Soo Choo.

Then, on the first offering from Pavano, Kipnis sent his first career grand slam over the right-center field fence to put Cleveland up 7-0, a lead Indians starter Derek Lowe would not relinquish.

“He got the ball up there with the bases loaded and two outs, a changeup that was just up and the guy hits it out of the ballpark,” Gardenhire said. “Then you end up with a big score out there. This wasn’t one of his better performances.”

Pavano’s abbreviated outing set the table for Minnesota’s 7-1 loss, which snapped a three-game winning streak after the Twins swept the Oakland A’s earlier this week. Minnesota has only been able to go as far as its starting pitching could take it, and Pavano didn’t take the Twins very far on Friday.

“He just didn’t get it done,” Gardenhire said. “It’s been a struggle for him so far. We’ll see where we go from here.”

Pavano has battled shoulder inflammation this season, which has led to a decrease in his velocity and lower pitch counts in many of his starts. Prior to Friday, he exceeded 80 pitches just once in his last five starts. Three times during that stretch, he threw fewer than 70 pitches.

It took him 71 pitches to labor through 3-1/3 innings Friday. After the game, Gardenhire was asked if Pavano’s shoulder was still an issue.

“We’ll discuss all those things after the ball game and figure out (Saturday) where we’re at with him and see how he’s doing,” Gardenhire said. “If he’s not healthy, we won’t (keep putting him out there), but no one’s told me he’s not healthy.

“We know he’s been fighting through the arm thing. He’s able to pitch through it. We’ll talk about this tomorrow and see where we go.”

Robby Incmikoski contributed to this report.

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