Pavano tabbed for Twins' Opening Day

Pavano tabbed for Twins' Opening Day

Pavano tabbed for Twins' Opening Day
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Twins may have only completed their first full-squad workout of Spring Training on Wednesday, but manager Ron Gardenhire didn't waste any time in answering the question of who will be his Opening Day starter.

Carl Pavano will get the start when the Twins open the 2011 season on April 1 at Toronto, Gardenhire said. The manager also confirmed that Pavano will start the Twins' Grapefruit League opener on Sunday night against the Red Sox at Hammond Stadium.

"He's starting Spring Training and the regular season," Gardenhire said.

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This will be Pavano's first Opening Day start with the Twins. Last year, Scott Baker was the Twins' Opening Day starter against the Angels.

In 2010, Pavano led the Twins' pitching staff in wins and 221 innings pitched while going 17-11 with a 3.75 ERA in 32 starts. He threw a career-high seven complete games, including two shutouts. After becoming a free agent this winter, he returned to the Twins in January on a two-year, $16.5 million contract.

Pavano's only other career Opening Day start came back in 2007, when he was with the Yankees. He recorded a no-decision while going 4 1/3 innings in a 9-5 victory over Tampa Bay.

Pavano is getting the nod over lefty Francisco Liriano, who started Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Yankees last year. Liriano has been battling a little bit of soreness in his left shoulder this spring, but is expected to throw another bullpen session on Thursday.

Although Drew Butera is expected to be Pavano's personal catcher once again this season, it doesn't mean that he will be starting behind the plate on April 1. Gardenhire said during TwinsFest last month that he plans to give Joe Mauer breaks during the season, including one day a week when Pavano pitches and Butera catches, but he indicated that doesn't include Opening Day.

"If Pavano is the Opening Day starter and you think I'm not going to have Mauer in the lineup, you can kiss my [behind]," Gardenhire said at the time. "There is the first dilemma of the year."

While Pavano has been tabbed to start the Twins' first Spring Training game on Sunday, pitching coach Rick Anderson said that he expects to finalize pitching plans for the start of Spring Training games perhaps as early as Thursday.