- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 11, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS | Carl Pavano’s ugly tenure with the New York Yankees had all the ingredients to make him a favorite scapegoat of the New York tabloids.

The right-hander signed a big contract (four years, $40 million) after the Yankees revamped their pitching staff in the wake of their loss to the Boston Red Sox in the 2004 AL Championship Series, spent the entire length of the contract injured or ineffective, and tossed a media firestorm on top of the whole thing when he rammed his Porsche into a truck in 2006, then hid the accident from the team.

It brought a steady and virulent stream of criticism on Pavano, almost from the time he started with the team, and when his contract expired after last season, he left as one of the biggest free agent busts in Yankees history.

And now, with the Yankees a game away from their first ALCS since 2004, it’s Pavano they’ll try to beat.

The right-hander, who signed with Cleveland before the season and came to Minnesota in an August trade, will start Game 3 of the ALDS for the Twins on Sunday night, trying to keep his old team from advancing at the expense of his new one.

Pavano has been a steadying presence in the Twins’ rotation, going 5-4 with a 4.64 ERA in 12 starts and winning 14 games. The fact that he has been able to stay healthy for a whole season has brought a measure of vindication after his time with the Yankees.

“It’s definitely a black period in my career - four years where I was kind of just treading water for a while there,” Pavano said. “I am getting a start in the playoffs. I can’t ask for much more than that. When I look back on it, obviously things could have been a lot different, but it didn’t work out that way. I feel like I am getting back to where I was before all those problems.”

He faced the Yankees twice with the Indians, posting a pair of quality starts. But now he’s facing them in the playoffs.

“He tried the best he could,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. “Unfortunately, too many times, you’d get that phone call - ‘We’ve got a problem.’ … But I’m not surprised Cleveland signed him. I’m not surprised a team like the Twins, that knows baseball, traded for him. And I’m not surprised, now that he’s healthy, he’s helped them get to the playoffs.”

Pavano, who was roundly booed in New York when the Twins were introduced before Game 1, has been embraced by the close-knit Twins. Manager Ron Gardenhire deflected some of the questions with a bit of Minnesota folksiness Saturday.

“That’s your tabloids,” Gardenhire said. “I can’t deal with that. I mean, we are just a Minnesota-nice group, and we like the hell out of the guy.”

But it doesn’t mean there won’t be some vindication on the line for Pavano on Sunday.

“There are definitely a lot of guys over there that I enjoyed playing with, but that was a frustrating time,” Pavano said. “I am thankful I got another opportunity after that to get back to where I was before all the frustrating times.”

Tolbert out

Twins third baseman Matt Tolbert, who strained his left oblique muscle on a check swing during Friday’s Game 2, was taken off the playoff roster Saturday. He will be replaced by Brian Buscher.

Former Nationals infielder Brendan Harris, who pinch hit for Tolbert, is slated to start at third Sunday.

Phillies-Rockies postponed

Snow in Colorado scrapped plans for Pedro Martinez’s first postseason start in five years.

Game 3 of the Philadelphia-Colorado series was postponed a day because of snow and record-low temperatures. That prompted a switch by the Phillies, who will send left-hander J.A. Happ to the mound Sunday instead of Martinez. The Rockies are sticking with Jason Hammel.

Game 4 will be Monday in Denver. The fifth game, if necessary, will be played Tuesday in Philadelphia.

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