Starting pitching has easily been the most inconsistent aspect for the Minnesota Twins in the first half of the 2012 season. For proof, look no further than Saturday’s game against the Texas Rangers.
Right-hander Samuel Deduno, who made his Twins debut Saturday, became Minnesota’s 11th starting pitcher in 84 games this year.
Deduno was called up from Triple-A Rochester earlier this week when the Twins sent struggling right-hander Nick Blackburn down to the minors. In 13 starts, second-most among all Minnesota pitchers this season, Blackburn was 4-5 with an 8.10 ERA.
Saturday marked Deduno’s first career major league start, but not his MLB debut — he previously pitched in six total games with Colorado and San Diego over the past two seasons. Deduno exited Saturday’s game after 5-1/3 innings and did not earn a decision in the Rangers’ 4-3, 10-inning victory in Arlington.
The 29-year-old Deduno was 1-2 with a 2.14 ERA in nine starts for Rochester this season before his promotion. That included 46 strikeouts and 22 walks in 42 innings. He allowed just three earned runs in five combined starts in June and July prior to his call-up.
Deduno’s debut began about as well as it possible could — the first pitch he threw was put in play for an out, as Texas’ Ian Kinsler popped out to second on the first offering from Deduno. But things didn’t remain that easy for Deduno against a tough Rangers lineup that on Saturday included four All-Stars.
Deduno was spotted a 2-0 lead by the Twins offense in the top of the second inning, but he gave a run back in the bottom half of the inning. After Adrian Beltre led off the inning with a single to left field, he then took second on a wild pitch. Nelson Cruz followed with a double to center that scored Beltre from second to cut Minnesota’s lead to 2-1.
Deduno gave up the lead in the bottom of the fourth inning on the third pitch to Josh Hamilton, who took Deduno deep to left field for an opposite field solo homer to tie the game at 2-2.
Deduno helped his own cause defensively as he was a part of two double plays on balls hit back to the mound. He was also involved in a play at the plate after a wild pitch got away from catcher Joe Mauer, who threw to Deduno to tag Cruz at the plate for the third out of the second inning after Cruz tried to score from third on the wild pitch.
Minnesota’s Josh Willingham gave Deduno a one-run lead to work with in the sixth inning as his solo homer off Rangers starter Derek Holland made it a 3-2 Twins advantage. But Deduno gave the lead right back in the bottom of the inning as Beltre took him deep to left for a solo blast. That shot ended Deduno’s first career major league start, as he left after giving up three runs on six hits in 5-1/3 innings.
Deduno finished with three strikeouts and three walks and also gave up a pair of solo homers in his Twins debut. Minnesota was surely hoping Deduno could go a bit deeper into Saturday’s game to help preserve the bullpen, but with the All-Star break beginning after Sunday’s series finale, the Twins could afford a bit of a shorter start from Deduno.
It remains to be seen how long Deduno will remain on the major league roster. He’s not the first pitcher to be juggled between Rochester and Minnesota — Cole De Vries and Liam Hendriks have both been up and down several times — and he probably won’t be the last by the time the 2012 season is finished.