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Updated: June 30th, 2013 6:53pm
Notebook: Key for Samuel Deduno has been controlling strike zone

Notebook: Key for Samuel Deduno has been controlling strike zone

by Brandon Warne
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- One of the pleasant surprises for the Minnesota Twins this season has been the emergence of 29-year-old right-hander Samuel Deduno.

Deduno, who will celebrate his 30th birthday by starting against Phil Hughes and the New York Yankees on Tuesday, has been a completely different pitcher this season. Through just over 40 innings, he is 4-2 with a 3.32 ERA.

But the biggest thing for Deduno this season is that he seems to have made a trade-off. Deduno's career walk rate is 5.0 batters per nine innings; this year, he checks in at 2.9. Where the trade-off has occurred has been the strikeouts, as Deduno presently checks in at 5.0 per nine innings against a career rate of 6.2.

A lot of that, according to Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, has come from command of what Deduno calls his "crazy" fastball.

"He's able to calm himself down on the mound, and control the strike zone a lot better than he used to," Gardenhire said. "We always knew that he could pretty much throw a breaking ball over the plate any time he wanted to, but command of his fastball wasn't something he had on a consistent basis."

As for the synchronized dip in walks and strikeouts, Gardenhire said that's something the club is willing to accept, especially with the number of grounders Deduno induces (60.7 percent).

Those groundballs are collateral damage from a fastball that possesses a devastating amount of sink. Fangraphs measures this via its PITCHf/x system under V-movement (vertical movement). In essence, the lower the number, the more sink a pitcher has to his pitches, which will usually correlate to a lot of groundball outs.

Among pitchers with 40-plus innings, Deduno ranks seventh, with noted groundball enthusiasts Doug Fister and Justin Masterson right in front of him.

Gardenhire insists that Deduno can still go get a strikeout when he needs it. "He can go put a guy away if he has to," Gardenhire said. "You saw that with (Kansas City's David) Lough the other night."

This was in reference to Deduno fanning Lough in the seventh inning with runners on the corners and a 2-1 lead.


If that remains the case, where Deduno is doing a better job of attacking the zone while limiting walks and inducing grounders, there's little reason to believe he has to be worried about his rotation spot in the near future.

Making progress

Gardenhire said the reports have been good for Aaron Hicks, who continues to rehab from a hamstring injury at Triple-A Rochester.

Hicks is 3-for-17 (.176/.263/.235), but is moving around well and appears to be getting close to being ready to rejoin the Twins. The final decision on when Hicks returns will be made by general manager Terry Ryan.

"He hasn't had any problems, but he hasn't played much," Ryan said. "There is no timetable when he's coming back. We'll go day-to-day and see how he progresses."

One option - especially with Clete Thomas swinging so well - could be to let Hicks get his bearings down in Triple-A. The Red Sox did a similar thing with prospect Jackie Bradley Jr.

Like Hicks, Bradley Jr. skipped Triple-A on the heels of an excellent spring training. But also like Hicks, Bradley struggled early in the regular season. 

Bradley has been better since his recall, so it wouldn't be unreasonable for the Twins to consider trying a similar plan with Hicks.

Gardenhire said it ultimately amounts to the Twins wanting to see Hicks get at-bats at Rochester.

"Our goal is let him get some at bats," Gardenhire said. "Let him get some swings. He needs swings right now. We've got some time. Clete is playing fine, and we want Hicks to be healthy and swinging well when he comes up. If we bring him up early and he tweaks something, and we make a move, we can't get that guy back without pulling some strings. We'd rather let him get healthy, and make sure for a few days down there, and then bring him back. "

Thomas is out of options, so if he were to be sent out when Hicks returns, he would have to clear waivers. But with Hicks' injury, it would seem unlikely that the Twins wouldn't want to keep a backup center field option in house.

Way to go 

Kyle Gibson estimated he had 85 to 90 congratulatory messages waiting for him when he checked his phone on Saturday after he beat Kansas City in his major league debut.

Gibson said he spent a good part of Sunday morning responding to all his well-wishers.

Gibson said almost exclusively relied on the two-seamer -- interesting because PITCHf/x claims the opposite --and that the variance in velocity from 91 to 94 (miles per hour) was more addition and subtraction than different deliveries.

He said the two-seamer worked well in the wind, and he had some success throwing it to the glove side -- like in one of Billy Butler's plate appearances -- which he hadn't been able to do regularly at Triple-A.

Quality start

Max Kepler is off to a terrific start at Cedar Rapids after having missed the entire first half of the season, but that comes as no surprise to Ryan.

"I was just (in Cedar Rapids)," Ryan said. "He's doing fine. He's ready. He spent two months down in Florida. We've talked about his ability and skills, he has both."

Ryan did say he was a bit surprised at how well Kepler was driving the ball. "The home run output might be a little surprising," Ryan said. "But as far as him going in there and being prepared, we've been hoping and waiting for him to get there for a long time. Now that (Byron) Buxton got moved up (to high Class A Fort Myers), there's a spot there for the taking in center field."

Kepler entered Sunday hitting .278/.381/.583, with seven of his 10 hits going for extra bases. He went 1-for-4 Sunday with his lone hit being a game-winning single that scored Jorge Polanco in a 6-5 victory over the Peoria Chiefs.

Etc.

* Gardenhire said he prefers playing Oswaldo Arcia in right field - that's Arcia's preference, too - but he has no problem playing him in left on days where Chris Parmelee is in right. "He definitely has the arm to play right," Gardenhire said. "No question about it."

* Former Twins reliever Matt Guerrier was designated for assignment by the Los Angeles Dodgers Sunday. The Dodgers now have 10 days to release or trade the 34-year-old right-hander, whom the club signed to a three-year, $11 million deal that was set to expire after this season. Guerrier had appeared in 34 games with a 4.80 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, and 6.3 strikeouts per nine innings.

* Former Twins starter Boof Bonser signed a minor league deal with the Cleveland Indians on Sunday. Bonser had spent all season with Triple-A Fresno in the San Francisco Giants system before being released on Thursday. Bonser had compiled a 2-6 record, 5.87 ERA, and 1.70 WHIP in 79.2 innings at Triple-A this year. Bonser last pitched in the major leagues with Boston and Oakland in 2010.

* Justin Morneau's seventh-inning two-run home run off Royals reliever Tim Collins was the 208th of his career, vaulting him past Kirby Puckett for fifth on the Twins' all-time list. Morneau now trails Harmon Killebrew (475), Kent Hrbek (293), Tony Oliva (220), and Bob Allison (211) for the franchise lead in home runs.

* The Twins made a minor procedural move between Double-A New Britain and Triple-A Rochester, moving catcher/outfielder Dan Rohlfing down and pitcher A.J. Achter up. Rohlfing, who actually started the season at Double-A, was hitting well enough in Triple-A (.314/.402/.430), but the Twins just wanted to get him a chance to catch regularly. Josmil Pinto has been catching quite frequently for the Rock Cats, while the Red Wings have had five different catchers this season and already have to find time for Drew Butera, Chris Herrmann, and Eric Fryer.

* Ryan gave a strong scouting report on Achter, who has pitched extremely well out of the bullpen the past couple seasons. "We took him about four years ago from Michigan State," Ryan said. "He started there, but he's been in the pen with us. He's got a good frame. All he does is get people out. He's right around 91 miles per hour a lot, with a nice changeup and a breaking ball which is a work in progress. His numbers last year were eye-popping between Beloit and Fort Myers. He's 24 and we're trying to move him along."

Brandon Warne covers the Minnesota Twins for 1500ESPN.com. He has also contributed as a baseball analyst for Fangraphs.com and BaseballProspectus.com
Email Brandon | @Brandon_Warne
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