The Minnesota Twins signed Samuel Deduno as a minor league free agent last November. Deduno, 28, is now one face in the bustling crowd of non-roster relief pitchers hoping to earn a spot on the team. The 6’3″, 190 pound right-hander will wear jersey number 69 during Spring Training. In order to earn a lower jersey number and a permanent job, he’ll have to overcome the arm troubles and control issues that plagued his minor league career.
Like most Twins prospects, Deduno is not a hard thrower. In his limited Major League experience, his fastball has averaged just 89.8 mph, though it apparently has good sinking action. But his best pitch is probably his curveball, which his former Rockie teammates described as “paralyzing” and “filthy.” He also throws an 85 mph slider and a changeup at about 82 mph, but those pitches may not be as good as his others.
Despite the lack of velocity, Deduno is not a typical “pitch to contact” hurler. In 2007, he led the Texas League in strikeouts with 121, but that came just a year after he led the California league in walks with 91. He has struck out an impressive 9.6 batters per nine innings as a minor leaguer, but he’s also walked 5.0 per nine. Almost all of his minor league experience has come in a starting role, but it’s easy to see how the high walk totals could make him a subpar starter in the Majors. The excessive walks would drive up his pitch counts and force the team to call the bullpen too early. It would be far easier to hide control problems as a reliever.
Deduno signed with Colorado out of the Dominican Republic in 2003, and he made his United States baseball debut the next year. He was erratic in Class A and AA the next three years, accumulating ERAs of 5.62, 4.80, and 5.53 from 2005 through 2007 respectively. After that inauspicious start, Deduno hurt his shoulder and missed all of 2008. But it’s possible he’s just a late bloomer, because he had his best season as a pro when he returned in 2009. Between AA and AAA, Deduno went 12-5 with a 2.73 ERA and 8.5 K/9, though he still had 4.9 BB/9. For his efforts, he was named the Texas League Pitcher of the Year.
The next season, Deduno made the Rockies’ Opening Day roster, but he didn’t stay in the Majors for long. After two appearances, he was sent back to AAA Colorado Springs, then he suffered a shoulder injury that sapped most of his season. In 30.2 AAA innings, he ended with a 2.93 ERA and 29 strikeouts. After the season Deduno signed with San Diego as a free agent, and again he spent most of the season in the minors. The Pads’ AAA club used him both as a starter and a reliever, and he earned a 3.83 ERA in 105 innings in the hitter-dominant Pacific Coast League. While with the Padres, Deduno had a small connection to the Twins – he was one of the players the team optioned to the minors to make room for Pat Neshek.
Deduno surely hopes his connection to the Twins will be much stronger this year. It would be fitting for him to pitch out of the same bullpen where Neshek once thrived.
Deduno is the seventh of 25 Twins Non-Roster invitees to be profiled on Puckett’s Pond. Keep reading, because a new profile will appear every day until all 25 are covered. If you missed the first six, you can find them here.