Pavano ponders future as MLB pitcher

Carl Pavano would love to return to Minnesota next year, but knows it's not totally his choice.

MINNEAPOLIS — Carl Pavano's 2012 season is finished. There's a chance that the right-hander's career with the Minnesota Twins may be over, too.

If it were up to the 36-year-old Pavano, though, he would love to come back to Minnesota next season after his current contract expires at the end of this year.

Yet at the same time, Pavano knows it's not solely his decision to make.

"Of course I'm open to it. It takes two to tango, there's no doubt about it," Pavano said Friday. "But I think they know me, they understand me, they know what I'm about, and I know what the organization is about. There are great people in this organization, and I've enjoyed my time here, there's no doubt about it."

Pavano was shut down for the season in late August when he received a new diagnosis on his sore right shoulder. Dr. David Altchek diagnosed Pavano with a bruise on his humerus bone, which requires time to heal.

That means Pavano finished his 2012 season with just 11 starts after throwing more than 220 innings in each of the past two seasons. He last pitched on June 1 before going on the disabled list with what was diagnosed at the time as a right anterior capsular strain.

Before landing on the disabled list, Pavano struggled with his velocity early in the season. His fastball was several miles per hour below what it was during his previous seasons with the Twins — it averaged 86.2 mph this year compared to 88.7 mph in 2011 and 90.0 mph in 2010.

Despite that, Pavano still feels he could get by in the majors with a lower velocity.

"The doctors told me that the bone bruise was just weakening the whole shoulder joint so much that even what I got out of it was pretty surprising, from strength-wise and being able to compete (with) borderline average stuff," Pavano said. "I feel like that'll all be there. But as you get older some of those things diminish. So we don't know until I get to that point, and that's far ahead of me, so I'm just really focused on now, and just every day continually feeling better."

Pavano joined the Twins via a trade from Cleveland late in the 2009 season and was part of the Minnesota squad that won the American League Central by beating Detroit in a decisive 163rd game. He then won 17 games with seven complete games in 2010 as the Twins again won the division, this time in brand-new Target Field.

But Pavano and the rest of Minnesota's roster experienced disappointment in 2011 when the Twins lost 99 games and finished in last place in the AL Central. Still, Pavano was a workhorse for Minnesota, pitching a team-high 222 innings.

Pavano will now watch from the dugout as the Twins finish out September on their way to another losing season. But Pavano sees promise when he looks to the Twins' future.

"Obviously my season's over, but there are a lot of things around here that have been lost in the fray," Pavano said. " … There's a good future ahead of us. We have some talent. I think there were question marks about that, but it takes younger guys to put it together, and I kind of like what I see with some of these younger guys. A lot of that gets lost in the fray through the inconsistencies of a season, but I try to look at that stuff as I analyze the year. I think it's kind of exciting."

Whether Pavano will be part of that future remains to be seen. The Twins will no doubt be in need of starting pitching in 2013 as its rotation currently boasts the highest ERA in the American League (5.47 before Friday). Outside of left-hander Scott Diamond, there don't appear to be any certainties for next year's rotation.

Pavano earned $8.5 million this year and will turn 37 before next season. He's pitched 14 seasons in the majors, but until this season, the veteran Pavano had stayed healthy while with the Twins, something he prided himself on.

Will Pavano have enough left in the tank to pitch for Minnesota in 2013? He hopes so. Now it's up to the Twins to decide if he does.

"You have to listen to what your body tells you, but my mind … as you get older you get stronger in your profession mentally," Pavano said. "It's unfortunate that this is a very physically demanding job and those things diminish. We'll see. If physically I feel like I can put the work in every day to be out there, then there are years ahead of me, but I won't know until I do it."

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