Twins Tuesday: Pino to make first big-league start

Pitcher Yohan Pino, a non-roster invitee during spring training, was originally signed out of Venezuela by the Twins in 2004.

Steve Mitchell

After 10 years in the minor leagues, pitcher Yohan Pino will finally be making his major-league debut.

The Minnesota Twins announced Tuesday that Pino will be recalled from Triple-A Rochester to start Thursday’s game against the White Sox. He’ll take Samuel Deduno’s spot in the rotation, as Deduno will move to the bullpen. A corresponding roster move will take place before Thursday to add Pino to the 25-man roster, and Minnesota will also have to put him on the 40-man roster.

Several pitchers have put up impressive numbers for Rochester, but none were more impressive than Pino. In 14 games (seven starts), the 30-year-old Pino is 9-1 with a 1.92 ERA. As a starter, Pino was 5-1 with a 1.94 ERA with 32 strikeouts and 11 walks in 41 2/3 innings.

Pino, a non-roster invitee during spring training, was originally signed out of Venezuela by the Twins in 2004. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound right-hander was eventually traded to Cleveland in exchange for Carl Pavano in 2009, but was reacquired by Minnesota as a free agent this winter after spending time in the Cleveland, Toronto and Cincinnati organizations. He has spent parts of six seasons at the Triple-A level but had never been promoted to the majors until this week.

During his 10-year minor-league career, Pino was 83-56 with a 3.74 ERA in 292 games, including 153 starts.

Pino was one of several pitchers performing well for the Red Wings, and that includes prospects Trevor May and Alex Meyer. As of Tuesday, May was 7-4 with a 2.77 ERA, while Meyer is 4-3 with a 3.62 ERA. Left-hander Kris Johnson, who made one start for the Twins this year, has also posted solid numbers at Triple-A, going 6-3 with a 2.60 ERA in 12 starts. But Pino’s numbers were too hard to ignore, and he’ll now finally get his chance to pitch at the major-league level.

"He’s been lights out and has been pitching fantastic along with three or four other guys down there," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire told reporters. "I think we could’ve had our choices down there and this is who they decided to go with because he’s worked very hard."

Deduno began the season in the bullpen out of spring training when right-hander Kyle Gibson edged him out for the fifth spot in the rotation. But the Twins eventually moved Deduno back to a starter when Mike Pelfrey was injured. After going 8-8 with a 3.83 ERA last season with Minnesota, Deduno was 2-5 in 15 games (eight starts) and saw his ERA swell to 5.34.

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Deduno’s splits between his time as a starter and his relief outings have been significant. He had a 2.89 ERA out of the bullpen but a 6.52 ERA in seven starts.

"I’m still happy because I’m still here,"€ Deduno told reporters. "I’m going to make my adjustment. I’m going to keep my head up, go to the bullpen and do my job there."

Kubel released: Outfielder Jason Kubel, who was designated for assignment or release on June 8, was released by the Twins on Tuesday, according to reports.

Kubel, 32, signed a minor-league deal with the Twins this offseason that included an invitation to spring training. After a solid start in April, Kubel struggled in May and early June. When he was designated for assignment, Kubel was batting just .224 with one home run and 13 RBI in 45 games. He was designated when the Twins signed veteran free agent Kendrys Morales. When Minnesota needed to add Morales to the roster, Kubel was the odd man out.

Teams that designate a player for assignment have up to 10 days to decide what to do with that player. They can either trade him, place him on waivers, or release him. Kubel’s release means he’s now free to sign with any team, although there’s also a chance his career could be over.

Hicks to begin rehab assignment: Twins center fielder Aaron Hicks, who hasn’t played since June 9 after injuring his shoulder while making a diving catch, will begin a rehab assignment at Double-A New Britain on Wednesday, the team announced.

Hicks, 24, was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a right shoulder strain last Friday, although the move was retroactive to June 10. Hicks switched to hitting only right-handed after spending his entire career as a switch-hitter, so this rehab assignment will also allow him to work on batting from the right side while he also works his way back from his shoulder injury.

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