It is probably an indictment of the Minnesota Twins’ rotation when the biggest conversation of the month of March is focused on the performance of a pitcher who is currently not on the team’s 40 man roster.
As Mike Pelfrey, Vance Worley and Kevin Correia continue to turn in clunkers in the Grapefruit League, Samuel Deduno’s sometimes sloppy, sometimes dominating but always energetic outings in the World Baseball Classic -- including last night’s five inning, two hit, three walk and five strikeout victory – has captured many fans’ attentions back in the Upper Midwest.
Despite not maintaining the same free and easy motion as he showed during his start against Spain
earlier in the tournament, Deduno forged his way past the United States (even while walking in a run and facing several 3-0 counts) and then kept Puerto Rico at bay to help the Dominican Republic capture the World Baseball Classic title.
What helped the right-hander up to and in the championship game was having a filthy curveball.
This is nothing new for Sammy. Last year, Pitch F/X-ly speaking, he held one of the best curves in baseball – allowing an average of just .160 on the hook, 14th
lowest among those who threw it 200 or more times. He was also one of the most frequent users of the curveball, by percentage.
Throughout the World Baseball Classic he showed great confidence in this pitch. In his start against Team USA, Deduno had the misfortunate of not only loading the bases, but walking USA’s Eric Hosmer to give the home team an early first inning lead. With the bases still loaded, Deduno went to a full count on Adam Jones and sent him packing with a 3-2 curve for a called strike. Ballsy pitch. In another instance, he would go on to throw a 3-2 bender to his potential battery mate, Joe Mauer, only to get the catcher to roll over to the first baseman. You know how often Mauer had seen a 3-2 curve in 2012? Six times.
Last night, of the 14 batters Deduno retired, nine of those came on his curve.
When facing Puerto Rico’s Angel Pegan and a runner on second, Deduno spun a 3-2 curveball to get Pegan to turnover and knock into the second out of the inning. Two innings later, Deduno fell behind Jesus Feliciano and ultimately lost him on a curve out of the zone, he proved that he was not going to lay a fastball in there (if, you know, he’s capable of that).
As I’ve repeated numerous times, Deduno has got electric stuff which has helped him defy statistical convention for success at the major league level. If opponents are unable to square up pitches and are constantly off-balance with curveballs in fastball counts, it is hard to drive home those hitters he walked.
It’s a tightrope act but, so far, Deduno has pulled it off.