Minnesota Twins: Sam Deduno's Season Over, Last Start Reveals Key to Future
Terry Ryan confirms, BTW, Deduno will miss next start, so in all likelihood done for season. #MNTwins— John Shipley (@johnDshipley) September 29, 2012
It is unfortunate that it has ended following a difficult start against the Yankees on Sept. 26, where the pitcher only lasted 1.2 innings.
After a strong outing on Sept. 10 against Cleveland, he has only pitched eight innings in his final three starts.
During the Sept. 26 start against New York, the Twins dugout noticed that he was flinching every time the ball was thrown back to him. He was diagnosed with eye irritation, and after a long confrontation on the mound, the team forced him to leave the game.
“I couldn’t get his glove open to get the ball even,” said manager Ron Gardenhire after the game. “He kept saying he was fine, but if you just watch with your eyes there, and you see that he’s kinda flinching from balls and that’s not good enough.
“I will never leave a player out there in that situation.”
He had his eyes checked out before the start, but was cleared to play after telling the team doctors he was fine.
Gardenhire says Deduno hoodwinked the team.
“Before the game everything was fine,” said the manager, “he was having no problems and that’s what the kid was telling us and that’s all we’ll go by.”
After going 5-2 with a 3.62 ERA in July and August, Deduno, who originally began the seasons in the minors, went 1-3 with a 6.43 ERA in September.
It wouldn’t be far-fetched to think that the 29-year-old wanted to get everything under control and end the season on a good note, knowing an Opening Day rotation spot was available for him next season.
A spot that is his for the taking if he can just get that crazy fastball under control.
Hey I heard you were a wild one/
If I took you home/
It’d be a home run/
Show me what you do
Flo Rida – Wild Ones
Deduno is pleasant and soft-spoken off the diamond. Once the takes the mound, however, he’s a wild one.
One night he’s throwing more strikes than Pete Weber. The next he’s issuing more free passes than Groupon.
He’s as predictable as the Minnesota weather in late summer.
The erratic righty from the Dominican Republic made 15 starts, going 6-5 with a 4.44 ERA while throwing slightly more strikeouts (57) than walks (53).
“He has a lot of movement on his pitches,” says catcher Joe Mauer.
“With him I just kinda sit in the middle and aim down. Some will cut and some will sink, but the stuff that’s tougher to catch is probably tougher to hit too.”
Mauer compares him to another pitcher he caught—Mets knuckleballer RA Dickey.
“The ball is kinda all over the place,” he says. “It’s kinda like Dickey.
“It’s kinda unpredictable a little bit.”
His strikeouts and walks are not evenly divided on a nightly basis. Rather, Deduno tends to have one night where he leaves opposing hitters befuddled as they head back to the dugout crestfallen and on others he’s perplexed as they take a slow trot to first.
For example, on Aug. 19 at Seattle he pitched six innings, issued six walks and had two strikeouts. Then on Aug. 29 against Seattle he had seven innings pitched, no walks and nine strikeouts. And on Sept. 10 against Cleveland he pitched seven innings, walked three and struck out six.
“He fits the mold of an effectively wild pitcher,” continued Doumit. “He’s always going to be like that.
“He’s always going to be a high-walk, high-strikeout kind of guy, but if he can harness it, you don’t see too many pitchers with natural movement like that, and it’s a testament to him.”
The difference between Triple A and the majors comes down to one thing: Sam Deduno has to harness that fastball.
No one man should have all that power/
The clocks tickin' I just count the hours/
Stop trippin' I'm tripping off the power/
Till then, f*ck that the world's ours
Kanye West – Power
To understand Deduno’s fastball, imagine a sorcerer summoning lightning from the sky.
He holds it in between his palms for a moment before unleashing it upon his enemies.
That ball of lighting swells as it is held between the hands of the sorcerer, quivering in every direction while the energy is mustered.
If released at the right time, it will dart in an irregular pattern before disposing of the enemy.
If it is held too long, it will blow up in the sorcerer’s face.
That’s what it must feel like to toss Deduno’s fastball.
“It’s like a screwball,” says Doumit. “It’s funky—that’s the best work I can use to describe it.”
Nobody in the Twins clubhouse has seen anything like it.
“You’ve got to be ready because you don’t know where the play is,” says outfielder Ben Revere. “It’s like, you make that sinker, is it going the other way? Or he might just leave it straight and they’ll pull it so I’m just like, ‘I don’t know.’
“I told Jerry White, my coach, I don’t know where to play him because I don’t know if he’s going to be painting or how his ball’s going to be.”
“Some will cut and some will sink,” adds Mauer, “but the stuff that’s tougher to catch is probably tougher to hit too.”
On some nights the opposing batters can’t hit him.
“He was buckling some guys over on that side,” said Gardenhire after his Aug. 13 start against Detroit. “That’s not the norm for the Detroit Tigers. They’re a really good hitting baseball team.”
On other nights the opposing batters get hit.
“He’s been throwing the ball pretty decent lately and the last few starts have been good,” said manager Ron Gardenhire following a particularly wild outing on Sept. 15.
“Today, it’s one of those things that was just going everywhere. He threw fastballs, probably 55-footers. Fastballs.”
So, in short, his fastball is always a threat to opposing batters.
But that’s not always a good thing.
He has been working with pitching coach Rick Anderson constantly to help him with control.
“There’s some mechanical things Andy’s talked with him about that have allowed him to get his fastball over the plate more,” says Gardenhire.
“He has great stuff. Now it’s about mastering the strike zone a little better.”
Things are getting outta control/
Feels like I'm running out of soul/
You are getting too heavy to hold/
Think I'll be letting you go
Lupe Fiasco – Letting Go
“My mechanics [were] perfect,” said Deduno after a treacherous Sept. 15 outing against Francisco Liriano and the White Sox.
He had thrown 86 pitches. Only 40 were strikes.
Anderson had gone to the mound in the second inning to speak to Deduno.
“He told me, like—it was in my mind…”
His voice breaks. He is visibly upset.
“I tried to do too much.”
“I tried to be perfect.”
He pursued complete control of his fastball.
“He said that he was putting too much pressure on himself,” said Gardenhire, “he was getting mad at himself and when you do that you don’t relax and that’s what happens.
“That’s the reason: Everything tenses up and you don’t let the ball go right.”
After that start he faced Detroit and, unlike his Aug. 13 appearance, he struggled. He went 2.1 innings, walked three batters and gave up seven hits.
Sometime after that night he had the eye irritation, but told the team’s medical staff that he was fine and ready for his next start.
He wanted to hold on to that ball once again. With that ball, he could get his season back on track and end the year on a high note.
And that brings us to that Sept. 26 outing. In the second inning Gardenhire went to the mound, asking for the ball.
But it remained in his hand, concealed by a tightly closed glove.
With that ball he does something that cannot be contained and in that moment he couldn’t do what is ultimately in his best interest:
Just let go.
All quotes were obtained first-hand.
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