The Indians are hoping free-agent pitcher Carl Pavano can turn around in one year in low-key Cleveland what he failed to do in four amid the bright lights of New York, signing the veteran right-hander to an incentive-laden one-year deal Tuesday.
The Indians hope Pavano, who turns 33 Thursday, can bolster their starting rotation, possibly sliding into the third spot behind reigning Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee and young right-hander Fausto Carmona.
''We're obviously in a situation with limited resources, but still were in need to add a veteran starter into the mix,'' Indians General Manager Mark Shapiro said by phone shortly after the signing was announced at about 3:30 p.m.
''When we looked at the list of guys, we looked for a guy with some upside and a guy we felt we'd be getting at the right time,'' he said.
To make room for Pavano on the 40-man roster, Michael Aubrey was designated for assignment. Aubrey, a first baseman and former No. 1 pick (11th overall selection in the 2003 draft), has battled injuries throughout his career.
''When he's healthy, he hits,'' Shapiro said of Aubrey, who finally made his major-league debut last season after missing large chucks of nearly every season since turning pro. ''But he's undergone a lot of injuries over a lot of time. It was a tough call emotionally. But from a standpoint of looking at it objectively and with the depth that we have at first base, it made the most sense.''
According to Indians.com, Pavano is guaranteed to make $1.5 million this season, with the opportunity to make another $5.3 million in performance-based incentives.
After signing a four-year, $40 million deal with the New York Yankees, Pavano pitched in just 26 games and missed all of 2006.
He underwent Tommy John reconstructive surgery on his right elbow in June 2007 after making his first career Opening Day start for the Yankees two months earlier and spent the first four months of last season rehabbing.
But Shapiro and his staff were encouraged not only by the findings of Pavano's physical, but also the fact that he finished his shortened 2008 season with seven strong starts in which he went 4-2 with a 5.77 ERA in 341/3 innings.
''(Pavano) finished the year healthy, very strong, in good shape and extremely motivated,'' Shapiro said. ''We though he'd benefit from a fresh start, as it was obviously a tough go for him in New York.
''Hopefully, we get the guy who pitched two years prior in Florida, or something close to that. He's physically poised to have a season like that, and that (kind of) guy could make a big difference in our rotation.''
In 10 major league-seasons, Pavano is 66-66 with a 4.32 ERA in 193 games for the Montreal Expos, Florida Marlins and Yankees.
His best season was 2004 with the Marlins when he was 18-8 with a 3.00 ERA in 31 starts, finishing second in the National League in wins, seventh in ERA and was named a National League All-Star.
Pavano was originally drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 13th round of the 1994 draft and was traded to the Expos in November 1997 in a deal that sent pitcher Pedro Martinez to the Red Sox.
Indians designated hitter Travis Hafner recently had his right shoulder checked by Dr. James Andrews, who cleaned out Hafner's shoulder joint on Oct. 14. Hafner's shoulder has strengthened to the point that he will begin pre-hitting activities at Progressive Field this week. If all goes well, he is expected to return to a hitting program in mid-January.
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