Two-year deal brings Pavano back to Twins

Two-year deal brings Pavano back to Twins

Carl Pavano is officially a member of the Twins' rotation once again.

The club announced Wednesday that it agreed to terms with the veteran starter on a two-year, $16.5 million deal. He will earn $8 million this year and $8.5 million in 2012, with an opportunity to earn $500,000 more in incentives for the latter season based on innings pitched.

Pavano, who turned 35 on Jan. 8, was considered to be the top remaining starter on the free-agent market. He went 17-11 with a 3.75 ERA for the Twins in 2010 and led the team in both wins and innings pitched (221).

"We're just so excited, the family is," Pavano said in a conference call. "It's pretty cool. I'm getting texts from all my teammates, so obviously it shows me that they were waiting to hear what was going to happen, and they're all excited. So that obviously makes you feel pretty good."

Pavano is 22-15 with a 3.97 ERA in 44 starts for Minnesota since August of 2009. Although he had four injury-plagued seasons in New York from 2005-08, Pavano has proved to be quite durable with the Twins and Indians in the two seasons since. Over that stretch, he is 31-23 and averaged 210 innings a season.

Pavano tossed a career-high seven complete games -- including two shutouts -- last season, which tied with Cliff Lee for second in the Majors.

But it was more than just Pavano's on-field performance that caused the Twins to make a push to re-sign him. The right-hander has been valuable to the Twins for his leadership in the rotation.

"As we said when we first got him, we wanted him to be that accountable guy, to show the others how it's done, and that's what he did," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. "He came in and showed the staff that this is what happens if you pitch. He's no-nonsense. He's accountable, good or bad, and he has no excuses. That's why you love the guy. He's a bulldog. He doesn't want to come out of the game. That's what we want our young guys to see. I think they have all learned from him and we're excited to have him back."

Other teams were reported to have interest in Pavano at times throughout the winter, and he turned down a one-year offer from the Yankees and a multiyear offer from the Pirates to re-sign with the Twins. The news that the Yankees were one of the teams interested might seem surprising to some, but Pavano said that a mutual respect has remained for both sides despite his previous disappointing stint in the Bronx.

"I always had great respect for [Yankees general manger] Brian Cashman," Pavano said. "I still, through the years, have had contact with him, and we've stayed in touch. When they won the World Series, I called him to congratulate him because he was nothing but a class gentleman when I was there. He treated me with a lot of respect, and that shows a lot, that he was going to stick his neck out there for me if something was going to work out."

Pavano had options in terms of where he could have signed this winter. The Brewers spoke with Pavano's agent, Tom O'Connell, prior to acquiring Zack Greinke, and the Nationals also spoke with O'Connell during the Winter Meetings last month. But the decision to return to Minnesota was based largely on what his heart was telling him.

"I couldn't put aside the emotions, the feelings and the energy that I have for this team, the guys that I played with and our staff," Pavano said. "I just couldn't put it aside, so thank god we were able to come up with a deal and work things out.

"I'm where I need to be."

The two sides appeared close to finalizing a deal over the past couple weeks. And after the Twins re-signed veteran slugger Jim Thome on Friday to a one-year, $3 million contract with performance bonuses, the club's focus appeared to shift directly to re-signing Pavano.

Thome said after signing his deal that he would immediately go into recruiting mode for Pavano to rejoin him in Minnesota. And Pavano acknowledged that the two exchanged text messages throughout the winter, including one in particular after Thome re-signed.

"He texted me and he said, 'Listen, I did my job, now it's time to do yours. Let's get it going. You belong in a Twins uniform. That's where we need to be. Let's have some fun, and let's challenge each other again like we did last year, make each other better, and let's do this,'" Pavano said.

And now the Twins have Pavano back to help form what they believe is a strong 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation with Francisco Liriano.

The Twins have six starting pitchers for five spots, with Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Brian Duensing, Kevin Slowey and Liriano ready to go. The Twins have question marks in their bullpen due to the departure of four relievers this offseason, so such depth might allow the team to move one of its starters into a relief role.

"It's always a possibility," Gardenhire said. "Obviously, you are not going to have six starters, so something is going to have to give in Spring Training. You just have to wait and see. Things can happen between now and then. We are happy to have arms. You can never have enough of them.

"So to have six guys that we know can run out and start ballgames for you is a really good feeling going into Major League camp. Getting Carl back is a huge signing for us."

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Kelly's Corner and follow her on Twitter at kellythesier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.