While the Twins have shown no aversion to filling their rotation with inexperienced younger talent, they have always held a pronounced affinity for possessing at least one starter who fits the "veteran innings-eater" mold.
Because their financial resources have been limited in the past, they've often been reduced to the bottom-of-the-barrel members of this category. The idea of paying Livan Hernandez or Ramon Ortiz a few million dollars to reliably pile up innings on an otherwise young staff is great in theory, but when those pitchers (predictably) perform so poorly that they become major liabilities the experiment has to be cut short.
That the Twins were willing to pay Carl Pavano $7 million to return this season despite his posting a 5.10 ERA last year speaks not only to their valuing him as that veteran innings-eater, but also to their seeing past his inflated ERA and realizing that he's a notch above the type of veteran starter they usually end up with. Not only does Pavano possess a durable arm capable of rattling off more than 200 innings, he's also effective enough to be an asset while pitching those frames. That sets him apart from the likes of Hernandez or Ortiz (or Sidney Ponson, or R.A. Dickey for that matter).
Whether or not you buy into the mythical importance having of a seasoned veteran providing leadership and consistency in a youthful rotation, Pavano delivered yesterday in exactly the way the Twins envisioned when they decided to offer arbitration during the offseason. After two young and relatively inexperienced starters were forced out very early over the first two games of a series in a tough opposing ballpark, Pavano faced off against one of the game's most dominant pitchers and delivered a masterful complete-game victory, relieving a beleaguered bullpen and salvaging a series that at one point looked completely lost.
Pavano has completed seven or more innings in 11 of his 14 starts this season and has accumulated more innings than all but four starters in the AL. It's no coincidence that he has factored into the decision each time he's pitched this season; he's routinely lasted deep into games and he has heavily impacted their outcomes. Talk about earning your paycheck. (That last sentence can be read with a not-so-slight tinge of irony by my friends who follow the Yankees.)
I don't know how valuable Pavano's performance has been as far as setting an example for the younger pitchers (considering that hideous mustache, I think I'd prefer the team's other starters not seek to emulate him), but it's been plenty valuable on its own as the 34-year-old righty has given the Twins a good chance to win nearly every time he's taken the mound. His outstanding production, alongside the steadily excellent Francisco Liriano, has helped to keep the Twins' rotation respectable in spite of up-to-this-point disappointing performances from its three other members.