Re-signing Carl Pavano leaves Twins with an extra starter

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Carl Pavano is a 35-year-old pitcher with an infamously lengthy injury history and one of the lowest strikeout rates in baseball last season, so re-signing him to a two-year, $16.5 million contract is not without risk for Minnesota, but to avoid a three-year commitment and retain him for a slight bump in annual salary from the $7 million he earned in 2010 is a very sound move for the Twins.

It also means the Twins now have six starting pitchers for five rotation spots, or perhaps more accurately four guys for the three spots behind Francisco Liriano and Pavano. And the rotation logjam will get even more crowded once 2009 first-round pick and top prospect Kyle Gibson is ready for a call-up, most likely around midseason.

It’s a nice problem to have, of course, and re-signing Pavano will look even better for the Twins if they’re able to address other needs by either trading one of Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker, and Brian Duensing for good value or shifting someone to the question mark-filled bullpen with success following offseason free agent departures by relievers Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, Brian Fuentes, and Jon Rauch.

Duensing has the most relief experience, while Slowey or Baker likely have the most trade value. And if the Twins could, they’d surely love to get out from under Blackburn’s contract.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉