Samuel Deduno did himself, his team and his right bicep all kinds of favors Friday night in Cleveland.
Overcoming some tendonitis in the upper portion of his throwing arm, the Twins right-hander got back on track with an efficient one-run, three-hit, six-strikeout performance in a 5-1 victory over the Indians. Deduno threw 91 pitches during his six innings on the mound, mitigating the stress on his arm that had some concerned he’d miss this start.
Or worse, he’d pitch like he had the entire month of August.
Having gone 0-3 in his previous three starts, Deduno (8-7, 3.69 ERA) earned his first win since July and overcame a four-game winless streak. He appeared to be heading for more of the early-game slippage that’s plagued him this month when Carlos Santana’s first-inning single gave the Indians a 1-0 lead.
But that was all Deduno would yield as Minnesota (57-70) opened the three-game series with its third win in four days.
“He says he felt good,” manager Ron Gardenhire said of Deduno. “Towards the end there, we asked him how he felt out there, and he said a little tight at the end, but he said his arm felt good, and that’s a good sign, too. I thought he had more life on the ball.”
The Twins’ bats, when they made contact, had some life, too. Catcher Chris Hermann and shortstop Pedro Florimon each hit one-run doubles in the second to quickly erase Cleveland’s advantage, and Josh Willingham added a two-run, two-base hit in the seventh.
Four of Minnesota’s six doubles came against Indians starter Ubaldo Jimenez (9-8, 3.95), counteracting the right-hander’s 10 strikeouts — five in the first two frames — in his own six innings of work.
Lefty Brian Duensing took over for Deduno to start the seventh and struck out four in 2 2/3 of scoreless relief — his second-longest outing of the year. Usually a spot middle reliever, he hasn’t allowed a run in nine August appearances (8 2/3 innings).
“I felt fresh, but I didn’t feel like I had very good stuff (during my bullpen session),” said Duensing, who hadn’t pitched past Monday. “I wasn’t commanding my fastball very well. I was kind of struggling out in the bullpen. I was starting to get nervous, but I kind of got it figured out that last inning or so.”
But for the first time since a seven-inning shutout at Seattle on July 27, Deduno got things started on a good note. He allowed only two runners to reach base from the second frame through the fifth.
Both occurred in the fourth, but Deduno then collected a grounder from Asdrubal Cabrera and flipped to Florimon at second. As he’s done so many times this year, Florimon stepped on second and fired to Justin Morneau at first for an inning-ending double play.
Deduno worked in and out of another jam in the sixth, walking three batters but benefitting from an alert throw from Hermann to third that caught speedy Michael Bourn stealing.
It was the kind of Deduno outing Minnesota grew used to during the dog days of summer.
Four times in six starts from June 27 to July 27, he lasted seven innings and never allowed more than two earned runs. If not for recent rookie call-up Andrew Albers’ hot big-league debut, Deduno would still have the best ERA among Twins starters.
But a third straight dud Sunday against the White Sox raised questions about his health. He admitted his arm felt a little tired, and speculation about him being benched — there’s no point in wearing out a guy at this point in a playoff-bereft season — began to swirl.
He looked just fine Friday against the Indians (69-59), who now trail Detroit by six games in the American League Central Division race.
“Sammy was great,” Willingham said. “We always say when he throws strikes and gets ahead of hitters, he’s very, very tough, because he has a lot of movement on the ball. He was able to do that tonight.”
Mauer progressing: Doctors are pleased with Joe Mauer’s progress in the wake of exhibiting concussion-like symptoms, and the Twins’ All-Star catcher should be back in the lineup before too long.
The Detroit physician that checked out Mauer on Thursday cleared him to fly back to Minneapolis, according to the Pioneer Press. Friday, he met with a brain specialist at the Mayo Clinic, who cleared him to test his reactions to various forms of light exercise.
Mauer was scheduled to do so with Twins trainer Lanning Tucker on Saturday at Target Field.
If he can work through all of it without experiencing the dizziness or any other symptoms that saw him placed on the seven-day disabled list Tuesday, he’ll be able to avoid the 15-day disabled list and potentially rejoin his teammates next week.
“The doctors today didn’t see anything abnormal,” Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony told MLB.com. “I think with every player (with a concussion), you’re just relying upon what they tell you, how they feel.”
Mauer, 30, was batting a team-best and AL fourth-best .324 with 47 RBI before experiencing dizziness during batting practice in Detroit on Tuesday. He’d taken a hard foul ball of his mask the day before in Minneapolis against the New York Mets but didn’t reveal any discomfort until the following day.
The earliest he could return would be Tuesday at home against Kansas City.
Tonkin down, Hendriks back up: Minnesota officially called up Liam Hendriks to start Saturday’s game in Cleveland. To clear room for him, the team has optioned Michael Tonkin back to Triple-A Rochester.
The team announced Thursday its plans to recall Hendriks. It’s assumed he will finish out the season as the Twins’ fifth starter in place of Kyle Gibson.
Hendriks has started three major-league games this season, pitching 16 innings en route to a 0-1 record and 3.94 ERA. He’ll square off against Zach McAllister at 6:05 p.m. Saturday — not Scott Kazmir, who was next up in the rotation but traded spots with McAllister to rest his arm an extra day.