In his 10th year of professional baseball, Samuel Deduno has finally gotten a chance to prove he's major league material. After going 5-2 with a 3.72 ERA in 10 starts for the Minnesota Twins, it's hard to believe it took this long.
He's been showing his potential since July 8, when he made his first major league start at Texas, six days after turning 29. In his last start, a 10-0 victory over Seattle on Aug. 27, he convinced the Twins he might be part of the solution when they piece together a rotation for 2013.
"I would say that he's put himself in the mix," general manager Terry Ryan said. "After what you saw the other day, that's a no-brainer."
Against the Mariners, Deduno gave up just two hits and didn't walk a batter for the first time this season. He also struck out a career-high nine batters. So why are we just seeing this guy now?
"I don't know," Deduno said before quickly adding, "Always I've had good stuff, but always I've had this problem with my fastball."
Yes, Deduno has a knee-buckling curve and a tight slider. Yes, he has always been able to throw them over when he's had to, hence 835 strikeouts in 780 1/3 minor league innings. But he could never harness a live fastball that is so unpredictable that Twins catcher Joe Mauer compares it to a knuckleball. Not only did the catcher not know where it would go, but Deduno didn't know where it would go, hence 440 minor league walks.
"Every game I threw, there were too many people (on base)," he said. "And I was thinking a lot about it."
Which explains why Deduno's previous major league experience was limited -- six relief appearances between Colorado and San Diego in 2010 and 2011. He had given up eight hits and walked four in 5 2/3 innings. The ERA, 3.16 combined, was manageable because of seven strikeouts. Though it was a small sample size, it seemed to perpetuate a trend.
That's why pitching coach Rick Anderson had never heard of Deduno until the Twins signed him as a minor league free agent last winter.
"You tell the kid something, and he'll work on it to the end," Anderson said. "You give him an idea, and he'll explore it. It's not for lack of effort. Every day he has an objective to be better."
And that gives the Twins an extra glimmer of hope.
"Some people mature a little late," Anderson said. "Maybe he finds something in his delivery that will let him be consistent in the strike zone. If that ever happens, we'll have a hell of a pitcher."