Pavano's time in New York will be remembered for the punchlines, not the punchouts. He was paid $39.95 million to pitch in 26 games, and his work ethic and commitment to the organization was openly called into question by his teammates.
Now, through an incentive-laden contract with a base salary of $1.5 million and a guaranteed spot in the starting rotation, the Indians are offering Pavano a fresh start he is eager to capitalize on.
"To make it eight, 10, 12 years in the big leagues, you've got to be a pretty motivated person," he said. "I've been through surgeries I wasn't sure I'd come back from. I've won a World Series, I've been to the All-Star Game. I've been at the top of the game and the bottom of the barrel. ... I don't think I could be any more motivated than I am right now."
The Marlins and Blue Jays were among the other teams taking a look at Pavano. The Indians, who feel the 33-year-old right-hander can return to the form that won him 18 games in Florida in 2004, wooed him with that rotation guarantee.
"A lot of offers wanted me to come to camp and have to make the team," Pavano said. "Not that I thought I was above that, but I didn't want to have to be looking over my shoulder. There is some risk on me, and I understand that. I failed for four years in New York, and the perception hasn't been that great, and I understand that. To have a team like Cleveland step up to the plate, how could I ask for anything more?"
Pavano said he asked general manager Mark Shapiro and manager Eric Wedge plenty of questions before he agreed to the deal. He inquired about the health of Jake Westbrook, Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez, in particular, because he knows how crucial they could be in the Tribe's playoff hopes.
During his visit to Cleveland earlier this week for a physical examination, Pavano saw Westbrook, Hafner and Aaron Laffey at Progressive Field, checking in with the team's trainers.
"It shows the dedication the organization has toward the players, and the receptiveness of the players to the organization," Pavano said. "I've been in four or five organizations, and it was new to me. I was refreshed by it all. They obviously have the resources that I think will benefit me and the team. I was more excited once I saw it in action, and I've been blessed with the right fit."
The Indians, of course, are hoping Pavano fits in on the mound more than the trainer's room. And Pavano, who made seven starts down the stretch for the Yankees last season in his return from Tommy John ligament replacement surgery, said he feels physically ready to compete.
"I expect to turn a corner this year," he said. "I've had a conversation with guys who have missed time like this. The biggest thing is getting that fluidity and continuity in your throwing motion. Last year it was in three pieces. This year, it's in one piece. As far as I'm concerned, I'm healthy and ready to go. I still think I'm at an age where I don't think I'm at a decline in my career. I think I'm at the strongest point of my career right now, mentally and physically."
Despite his lengthy injury history, Pavano said he didn't worry about securing a job with a new club this winter.
"I'm not the first guy who's had injuries in his career," he said. "I believe in my ability to be a successful starting pitcher and successful teammate. The biggest worry was finding the right fit, finding a place that had the resources to make me better."
An intriguing subplot in Pavano's signing with the Indians is the fact that the Tribe will be the visiting team when the new Yankee Stadium opens up on April 16. The Indians already know they're likely to face former teammate CC Sabathia that night, and now it's likely Pavano will face his former club during that series.
"That would be exciting," Pavano said. "There would be a lot of irony in that. Those are the fun parts of the game. It's kind of ironic that I saw the last game in old Yankee Stadium and now I'll get to see the first game at new Yankee Stadium. I've been blessed with some incredible things I've seen and been given through baseball, and I appreciate it every day."
As for his time in New York, Pavano might have felt like he was kicked around a few times, but he said he carries no grievances.
"New York's a great place to play," he said. "There's no reason for me to focus on what happened to me, because that's all behind me. I'm not holding any grudges. You just keep moving forward."