By SANTOSH VENKATARAMAN
(AP) -- Carl Pavano's diminished velocity has the Minnesota Twins worried.
His form over the years against the Cleveland Indians has not been a major concern.
The Twins will send Pavano to the mound Monday night against the visiting Indians in the first of 18 matchups between these AL Central rivals.
Pavano (2-3, 5.02 ERA) has seen his fastball clocked around 85-86 mph this year. Minnesota (10-24) went so far as to have the veteran undergo an MRI that only revealed inflammation in the back of his shoulder.
"They did a precautionary MRI on him because of his velocity, but everything checked out fantastic," manager Ron Gardenhire told the Twins' official website. "He has a little inflammation, but that's it. The MRI was very positive, so now mechanically it's maybe about getting a little more turn and rotation."
The Twins are hoping the right-hander can help them improve upon their major league-worst 6.31 ERA for starters. He lasted four-plus innings and yielded five runs and a season-high 10 hits Wednesday in a 6-2 home loss to the Angels.
Pavano has faced Cleveland (18-16) nine times since the Indians traded him to Minnesota during the 2009 season, going 2-3 with a 3.08 ERA.
Asdrubal Cabrera is 1 for 26 against Pavano for his lowest average against any pitcher with at least 15 plate appearances.
Cabrera is batting a team-high .315, but he went 0 for 9 with three walks during Cleveland's three-game slide in Boston after the Indians won the opener of a four-game set.
"I'm very disappointed in this series, overall," manager Manny Acta told the Indians' official website. "When you've got a four-game series in this place, and you win the first one, the least you expect is a split."
Indians starters have posted an 8.83 ERA in those defeats, and Jeanmar Gomez (2-2, 4.66) is next in line for them. Gomez is hoping to fare better than he did Wednesday when he matched a career high by giving up eight runs over 6 2-3 innings in an 8-1 home loss to the White Sox.
"I'll take the good things out of it and keep working, prepare for the next start," Gomez said. "Every pitcher has a bad start."
The right-hander is 1-1 with a 5.60 ERA in three starts against the Twins.
Cleveland won eight of the final nine 2011 matchups against Minnesota to capture the season series for the first time since 2007, winning 11 of 18 overall. Shelley Duncan led the Indians with 12 RBIs in the season series, but he's struggling right now with a .207 average.
The Twins salvaged a four-game split with Sunday's 4-3 win over Toronto. Scott Diamond didn't allow a run over seven innings for his second straight scoreless outing - no other Minnesota starter has one.
Rookie Brian Dozier hit his first career homer. He believes that better days are ahead for baseball's worst team.
"We're playing good baseball right now," Dozier said. "We'll get things going."
Updated May 13, 2012