Friday, April 15, 2011

Back together again: Pavano & Butera

The magic was back together again last night at Tropicana Field. For the first time in 2011, Drew Butera was behind the plate to catch his favorite pitcher, Carl Pavano. In Pavano's first two starts of the season (Opening Day and the Home Opener), Joe Mauer was behind the plate. There were some rough stretches in the first two outings of the year for Pavano. The first start was a disaster and the first inning of the Home Opener looked like a circus. Mauer came to the stadium a little sore and that meant the combo of Butera and Pavano was back together again. Pavano looked great and pitched eight shutout innings but the bullpen waisted his great outing.

The tandem of Butera and Pavano was teamed up in the middle of last season and during their time together Pavano went on a great stretch of games. From the middle of July to the middle of August, Pavano won six out of seven starts. In that time period he pitched 50 innings, allowing 14 earned runs, and striking out 32. Pavano only allowed an on-base percentage of .302 and one homerun during this run. The mustache-clad Pavano and the young Butera had formed a battery that would help the Twins on the way to the Central Division Championship.

Butera and Mauer caught around the same amount of games and innings from Pavano in 2010. But the Pavano/Butera hook-up produced a lower ERA, less homeruns allowed, less runs allowed, and more strikeouts. Here are the numbers that Pavano put up with Butera behind the plate in 2010:
Games: 15
IP: 106.0
ER: 43
ERA: 3.65
K: 58
BA: .273
OBP: .304
It was great to see the confidence that Gardenhire had to keep these two together in the heat of the pennant race. This pair rewarded him with a continued great play on the field.

News came out after the game that Mauer will placed on the disabled list because of weakness in his legs. Apparently the erratic Francisco Liriano of this season has been beating up the hometown start with all of his pitches in the dirt. This means more of an opportunity for Butera to show his value to the Twins  but it could mean even more struggles for the offense.

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