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Pavano and Twins rocked by Indians

By Joe Christensen, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) –

CLEVELAND — The rest of the Minnesota Twins’ original starting rotation plans have fallen apart, and now Carl Pavano is hanging by a thread, too.

Pavano, who’s been plagued with right shoulder issues all season, stopped just short of saying he needs to go on the disabled list Friday night, after getting pounded for six earned runs in a 7-1 loss to Cleveland at Progressive Field.

“I’m hurting this team right now; there’s no doubt about it,” Pavano said after falling to 2-5 with a 6.00 ERA. “We came in with some momentum and I killed it right away. By the (fourth) inning, we’re down seven. That’s no way to start a series.”

Pavano, 36, turned in a quality start as recently as May 19, when he held Milwaukee to two runs over six innings, but in his past two games, he’s allowed 12 earned runs on 19 hits over eight innings.

“I think it’s coming time where decisions need to be made,” Pavano said. “I need to give myself a chance. This has gone on long enough. My stuff is not what we’re used to seeing from me. I wish I could say it was a rough patch, but I’m really treading water right now.”

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire planned to meet with pitching coach Rick Anderson and Pavano to discuss a new strategy. The team is in a real box right now because Pavano is in the final year of his two-year, $16.5 million contract.

There was hope that Pavano might be able to generate some trade value if he could get past the shoulder issue, but it just won’t go away.

“He’s one of our starters,” Gardenhire said. “If he’s not healthy we won’t (keep using him), but no one’s told me he’s not healthy. We know he’s been fighting through the arm thing, but he’s able to pitch with it. We’ll talk about this (Saturday) and see where we go.”

The Twins already lost Scott Baker to a season-ending elbow injury and designated Jason Marquis for assignment. Nick Blackburn is on the disabled list with a strained quadriceps muscle, and Francisco Liriano had done nothing but disappoint before tossing six scoreless innings Wednesday, as the Twins completed a sweep of the reeling Athletics.

Whatever momentum they built in that series came to a screeching halt by the fourth inning, when Jason Kipnis hit a grand slam, extending Cleveland’s lead to 7-0.

That came on a 78 miles-per-hour changeup that just floated through the strike zone. Pavano also allowed a two-run homer to Lonnie Chisenhall in the second on an 83-mph slider with two outs and an 0-2 count.

“Normally with Carl, he gets that ball where he wants to — down and in, off the plate — and that guy’s not going to hit a home run with it,” Gardenhire said.

The Twins had no answer again against Derek Lowe (7-3), who held them to one run on five hits over 6 innings on his 39th birthday. Lowe, who tossed a six-hit shutout against the Twins on May 15, is a sinkerball pitcher just like Pavano and had his own struggles with Atlanta last year, when he went 9-17 with a 5.05 ERA.

The Twins’ best hope might be placing Pavano on the DL, hoping he can strengthen his shoulder with rest.

“It’s the last thing I want to do,” he said. “But there comes a time where you’re hurting yourself and you’re hurting the team. We’ve tried everything to remedy the situation. Staying off the mound. Taking extra days. I wish the results were a lot better. They’ve given me every opportunity to bounce back and get over the hump, but I just haven’t been able to do it.”

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