Samuel Deduno got brief looks in relief from the Colorado Rockies and the San Diego Padres before signing with the Minnesota Twins as a six-year minor league free agent, and he didn't exactly turn heads in spring training. He was so far down on the depth chart, in fact, that the pitching-poor Twins didn't call him up for a look until they needed a spot start on July 7.
It was Deduno's first major league start. He was 29.
That's hard to believe now. After baffling the Detroit Tigers in a 9-3 victory Monday at Target Field, Deduno is 4-0 with a 3.38 ERA in seven starts, and he's doing it with electric stuff.
"I've never seen anything like that before in my life," said Ryan Doumit, who caught Deduno for the first time Monday. "I hope he stays with us. I know I never want to face him. I had tons of anxiety before catching him tonight because I'd caught him in between innings in other nights and thought, 'Oh my God.' He's filthy."
Sometimes that stuff is hard for Deduno to corral, which is why he has 30 walks in 40 innings this season. He swears, for instance, he never knows which way his fastball will break. But when he can get his slider over for a strike, he's nearly unhittable, as he was Monday. Through seven innings, he had walked five but allowed only two hits and a run.
He was pulled after Detroit started the eighth with three consecutive hits; it was the deepest into a major league game Deduno had ever pitched.
"The curveball was pretty good today," he said. "The fastball, still movement, still working. I throw a slider, too. I use more my slider for a strike, and the curveball I use for striking out."
Deduno has been a big boost for the Twins, who have gone through starters like Kleenex. When he made his debut at Texas, he was the 12th pitcher to start a game for the Minnesota this season. But if he keeps pitching like this, who knows? At 29, Deduno might have finally earned a job.
"If he can learn to harness (his stuff) and maybe cut down on the walks," Doumit said, "I think he has the chance to be pretty special."