The Twins right-hander put together his best start since joining Minnesota this offseason, going six innings and allowing just one run in the Twins’ 4-2 win Sunday against the Cleveland Indians.
In the process, Pelfrey struck out seven batters — which equaled the number of strikeouts he had combined in his first five starts.
“He threw the ball great,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Pelfrey. “His pitches were working, he was locating very well and he got us through a good six innings, which was solid.”
Prior to Sunday, Pelfrey’s longest start this year with Minnesota was just 5-1/3 innings, which happened twice. He also had one outing in which he gave up six runs in just two innings, and had another start last just 4-2/3 innings after he allowed five runs.
But Sunday’s start was certainly a step in the right direction for Pelfrey, who was signed as a free agent this offseason after having Tommy John surgery on his right elbow early last year while with the New York Mets. The Twins have never believed Pelfey’s elbow would be an issue, and he may have temporarily squashed any of those worries with Sunday’s strong outing.
“This has been a heck of a comeback,” Gardenhire said. “You’re still just a year out of the surgery. It’s kind of like we’re taking some small steps, but the ball’s coming out of his hand really good. Last outing was good, this was better.”
Through five games, Pelfrey’s four-seam fastball was averaging just 91 mph, according to FanGraphs. Sunday, however, his fastball was clocked consistently at 94 mph.
A good sign, no doubt.
“If that’s true,” Gardenhire said of the radar gun readings. “It’s like a policeman’s radar. Sometimes it’s off.”
The lone run Pelfrey allowed came in the fourth inning after the Twins had already built a 1-0 lead. Asdrubal Cabrera led off the inning with a double and later stole third base. Mark Reynolds’ sacrifice fly to deep center field scored Cabrera to cut Minnesota’s lead to 2-1.
But Pelfrey settled down after that and faced the minimum in his final two innings of work. That included a pair of strikeouts — against Cabrera and Reynolds — to breeze through a scoreless sixth inning. Pelfrey’s day was done after six innings and 92 pitches. It was his first quality start in six chances in a Twins uniform.
“Hopefully we’ll just keep progressing,” Gardenhire said. “The velocity’s getting better. The angle’s getting better. His pitches are sharper. That was a nice performance.”
Deduno makes season debut: After an impressive performance in the World Baseball Classic, Twins right-hander Samuel Deduno failed to make Minnesota’s 25-man roster out of camp due to an injury. Deduno finally made his season debut Sunday for Triple-A Rochester when he was activated from the minor league disabled list.
On Sunday against Columbus, Deduno pitched five innings and allowed just one unearned run on five hits in a 3-2 loss for the Red Wings. He struck out four and also walked four while throwing a total of 89 pitches.
Deduno made 15 starts for the Twins last year and went 6-5 with a 4.44 ERA. He was a candidate to make the rotation this spring but the injury set him back.
To make room for Deduno, the Red Wings released outfielder Brandon Boggs. In 21 games, Boggs batted just .184 with eight RBI. He played in 130 career games in the majors with Texas and Milwaukee from 2008-11.
Polanco is Minor League Player of the Week: Shortstop Jorge Polanco of the Low-A Cedar Rapids Kernels was named the Twins’ Minor League Player of the Week. In seven games this past week with Cedar Rapids, Polanco batted .429 (12-for-29) with 10 RBI.
The 19-year-old Polanco joined the Twins’ organization in 2009 when he was signed as a non-drafted free agent from the Dominican Republic. Prior to Sunday, he was batting .352 this season with a home run and 24 RBI.
FOX Sports North’s Marney Gellner contributed to this report.