Samuel Deduno's dominant WBC hasn't gone unnoticed by Twins
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Minnesota Twins fans weren't hallucinating on Tuesday night.
That was indeed Samuel Deduno hurling five scoreless innings for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic championship game -- a 3-0 win over a very good Puerto Rican team.
Deduno finished the WBC with a 0.69 ERA in 13 innings, striking out 17 while issuing only five free passes.
He baffled hitters with his sharp breaking ball. He dazzled with his ability to pitch out of trouble. And, perhaps most importantly, he reinserted himself into the Twins' starting pitching conversation from 3,000 miles away.
"We came into the spring saying we've got (Mike) Pelfrey, (Kevin) Correia, (Vance) Worley and (Scott) Diamond," Twins assistant GM Rob Antony said Monday -- before Deduno's championship gem -- in an interview on 1500 ESPN's Judd & Dubay Show. "Those are four starters that we had as close to being in ink as you can. Diamond had the bone chips removed, and he's a little behind schedule. I think he's going to start the season on the DL. But I don't think he's going to be out long. ...
"We also knew we had a fifth starter spot available, and Deduno was a guy that we brought in under consideration. He was going to battle the (Cole) De Vries and the (Liam) Hendriks and all those guys, the P.J. Walters -- guys that showed some things last year, but not necessarily guys that you were going to put in more than pencil, but they were going to come in and compete for jobs.
"Although (Deduno) hasn't done it in our camp, he has been pretty impressive in the WBC, so when he gets back he's going to be in the mix for that (fifth starter spot)."
Signed as a minor league free agent prior to the 2012 season, Deduno took advantage of a Twins pitching staff ravaged by injury to make 15 up-and-down starts, posting a 4.44 ERA with 57 strikeouts, 53 walks, 10 home runs allowed and one of the best groundball rates of any pitcher in baseball.
The problem with Deduno hasn't been his ability to dominate opposing lineups. The Twins know he can do that. The 29-year-old righty -- who is not currently on the Twins' 40-man roster -- brought no-hit stuff to the mound on numerous occasions in his 15 major league starts last year.
He simply walks too many hitters to have sustainable success. Among the 205 pitchers who threw at least 70 innings last season, nobody walked more batters per nine innings than Deduno (6.04 BB/9).
More often than not, when Deduno uncorks a pitch he has very little idea where it'll wind up.
"I can't exactly tell you how much better his command has been, because it's been all video scouting, but our people have been impressed who have seen him live at the WBC," Antony said. "He's always had good stuff. He can be unhittable at times, but it's always been a matter of is he going to throw enough strikes? Is he going to hurt himself?
"I think he's done a really good job in understanding his conditions, because you watch those guys and you see the emotions and how wound up they are and excited they are pitching for their country and everything, and he's been able to throw strikes even with the added excitement and environment. So that's been encouraging."
Just like with spring training numbers, WBC performances need to be taken with a grain of salt. There are a lot of minor leaguers scattered throughout these WBC lineups, and hitters are generally a step or two behind pitchers every March. But there are plenty of established major league hitters in the WBC as well. Deduno faced Carlos Beltran, Yadier Molina, Alex Rios and Angel Pagan on Tuesday night, and his command throughout the tournament was mostly excellent -- at least by his standards.
If Deduno can regularly cut down on his walks, he could be a viable starter for the Twins.
But that's a big "if."