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03/03/2004 8:32 AM ET

Pavano ready for breakout season

By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com Ticket information



JUPITER, Fla. -- In all the hysteria and hoopla over winning the World Series, the most overlooked seven pitches for the Marlins in the playoffs were turned in by Carl Pavano in the second game of the 2003 Division Series.

If not for some unsung heroics by Pavano, there may not have been Ivan Rodriguez tagging J.T. Snow out at the plate, or the Game 6 comeback in Wrigley or Josh Beckett's World Series heroics.


Lost in the Marlins' remarkable 2003 playoff run was Pavano taking the mound with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the fifth inning against the Giants at SBC Park on Oct. 1, 2003.


Up a game in the series, San Francisco had just gone up 5-4 and was ready to break the game wide open. Had the Marlins fallen that day, their chances would have been bleak, trailing 0-2 in the best-of-five series.


With their backs to the wall, Pavano entered in relief of Rick Helling with Giants filling the bases.


Seven pitches later, Edgardo Alfonzo and Benito Santiago were retired without the Giants padding their slim lead.


Pavano's day was done after two-thirds of an inning, but the Marlins' comeback was just beginning. They rallied with three runs in the sixth and rolled to a 9-5 victory.

Pavano collected the win that day, and the Marlins rolled all the way to the title.


"It goes unnoticed, but he won a lot of big games for us," manager Jack McKeon said.


Healthy all season, Pavano was 12-13 (4.30) in 32 starts and he paced the team with 201 innings. His numbers were modest, but his performances kept progressing after the All-Star break when he was 6-3 (4.14) in 82 2/3 innings.


Pavano picked up the win the night the Marlins beat the Mets to clinch the Wild Card in late September. In the postseason, he really rose to the occasion, going 2-0 (1.40) in eight games, including two starts.


It was Pavano who kept the Marlins in Game 6 of the NLCS against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. And in Game 4 of the World Series, with the Marlins down a game to the Yankees, Pavano outpitched Roger Clemens. The right-hander was in position to get the victory until Ugueth Urbina blew a save opportunity in the ninth. The Marlins ended up winning on Alex Gonzalez's walk-off home run in the 12th inning, and again Pavano's stellar performance was overlooked.


Had the World Series gone seven games, Pavano was slated to get the start on three days' rest. It never came down to that because Beckett closed out Game 6 with a five-hit shutout, giving the Marlins their second World Series championship.


Everything seemed to steamroll for the 28-year-old right-hander after those seven pitches at San Francisco.

"I was at a time right then where I was feeling really good," said Pavano, who accepted without complaining whatever role was asked in the playoffs. "You could have put me in any situation then and I felt like I would have gotten out of it. It was just one of those stretches where you are really locked in. You weren't worried about the results because you knew you were going to get the results you sought. It was a just a situation where I was prepared for."


The 6-foot-5, 241-pound Pavano appeared to get stronger as the season progressed. The velocity of his fastball in the postseason rose to 95 mph, and so did his confidence.


"His slider was outstanding," McKeon said. "I think he's going to have a big year. He's one of those guys ready to break out."


Pavano's second half and postseason surge is one reason the Marlins are realistic about their playoff chances again.


In the Marlins rotation, Pavano likely will be the fourth starter, behind Beckett, Brad Penny and Dontrelle Willis.


"I'm not worried about that," he says. "I want to make my starts. It's not about first guy, second guy or third guy. I think everyone on this staff can step up and win games at any time, and not worry about who's the No. 1, and who's the No. 2. We're all No. 1s then. That's fine. Let's go out and win some ballgames."


Strong starting pitching is the primary reason the Marlins were able to win the World Series. And the team once again is banking on the starters to keep them in playoff contention.


When A.J. Burnett completes his Tommy John surgery rehab requirements, possibly in early May, the Marlins feel they have a rotation on par with the Cubs, Astros and Yankees. They just aren't getting the same recognition.

"It doesn't matter," Pavano said. "What really matters is what we think about ourselves as a team. You're not going to always have the supporters and followers that you'd like to have. Whether they think we're good or not has nothing to do with what we're going to do this season. It's all about us. It's about our attitudes, and our confidence, and how we prepare ourselves. It really doesn't matter what they [media] think about us.


"They didn't think good about us last year and look at what we did. We definitely have a maturity and an inner confidence. We know it comes down to us. If we want it bad enough, we can get it."

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