Found May 19, 2012 on Fox Sports North:
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By Jesse Temple FOXSportsWisconsin.comMILWAUKEE Take away a king's power and wealth, and what is he? A commoner by societal standards. Take away a major league starting pitcher's zip and velocity, and what is he? Pedestrian by baseball standards. Carl Pavano's reign as the Minnesota Twins ace didn't feel much like an exalted title he'd be able to maintain given his recent troubles. The authority he displayed on the mound during his first 13 years in the big leagues had diminished considerably over just a few short months because of right shoulder inflammation. Fastballs that popped in at 89 miles per hour suddenly hovered in the zone at 86. Off-speed pitches didn't look so intimidating by comparison a predicament that rendered Pavano something less than the distinction of a No. 1 starter. But on Saturday, during Minnesota's 5-4 victory against Milwaukee in 12 innings at Miller Park, Pavano and the Twins finally found the encouragement for which they'd been searching. The velocity that had escaped Pavano returned, and he once again pitched like a team ace. In six innings of work, he allowed two runs on five hits with six strikeouts and one intentional walk, earning a no-decision. "I definitely feel like I had some more life on it," Pavano said. "I thought I made some better pitches than I have and through this process of trying to get through what I'm dealing with. I think velocity will give you a little more margin for error in the strike zone. I got away with some pitches that I wouldn't have two or three starts ago with where I was at."A strain in Pavano's shoulder kept him from throwing as hard as he would've liked in previous starts, and the results weren't always pretty. On May 9, Pavano was walloped for five runs on 10 hits in four innings against the Angels the first time he did not toss at least six innings this season.Soon after, the 36-year-old Pavano underwent a precautionary MRI that revealed inflammation in his right shoulder but no structural damage. Still, the issue was serious enough that he skipped Minnesota's trip to Detroit earlier this week to remain in the Twin Cities and receive treatment to strengthen his range of motion. According to fangraphs.com, Pavano's velocity on his fastball this season is 86.2 miles per hour. Last year, it was 88.7. For a starting pitcher, nearly three miles an hour can be the difference between a quality start and a shellacking the second time through the lineup."Taking three miles an hour off the fastball has been tough for him because normally he can surprise hitters, pop it in there," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said before Saturday's game. "He locates as well as anybody. But you need that extra velocity to get them off those breaking pitches. That's something that he hasn't had."Pavano said he felt much stronger on Saturday as evidenced by the return of his 89 mile-per-hour fastballs though he was limited to a pitch count between 75 and 90 pitches to avoid exacerbating the shoulder inflammation.His 86th and final pitch induced a fly out to center off the bat of Rickie Weeks in the bottom of the sixth, giving Pavano his fourth quality start in nine outings. Pavano left with the game tied 2-2."I have to come out and the bullpen's got to cover three innings," Pavano said. "They've thrown a lot the last three or four days, so I'd like to pick them up a little better. But where I'm at with my pitch count, that was the right move."Pavano, who is 2-3 this season, lowered his ERA from 5.14 to 4.91. Despite his velocity troubles, he also leads the Twins in innings pitched with 55 22 23 more than any other pitcher on the staff."He looked like a stud," said Twins right fielder Ben Revere, who tallied two doubles and an RBI. "Like always. He's good. That's why he's our No. 1 guy. We were right there behind him playing defense. He played phenomenal. He's going to keep doing it all the way down the road."The Twins (14-26), who won their season-high fourth straight game, sure hope so. The last thing they need while attempting to climb out of last place in the American League Central is for their ace to look pedestrian. "It's nice to see him feel good," Gardenhire said. "The big thing, he's talking about pitches and location now rather than not being able to find that extra two or three miles an hour." Follow Jesse Temple on Twitter
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