Jun 19, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Yohan Pino (63) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Chicago White Sox at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Yohan Pino's Excellent Adventure


It’s Yohan Pino Day here at Puckett’s Pond. Indeed, last night was a very special night for newest Twins starting pitcher. The big deal, of course, was that he made his Major League debut.

And what a debut it was.

Pino acted as the team’s stopper, throwing seven dominant innings while giving up just two earned runs. He scattered five hits, walked one, and struck out seven. Though Pino ended the night with a no decision, his sterling performance allowed the Twins to pull it out in the bottom of the eight, ending their five game losing streak.

I’ll admit that I’d never heard of Yohan Pino before the season began. Before last night, he was a 30-year-old journeyman who had never cracked a Major League lineup. In essence, he was like hundreds of other prospects, who are far too many for even your above average schmo to keep track of.

So, by the time Pino struck out his fifth batter, who happened to be Jose Abreu, suffering his second whiff of the night, I asked my late great-uncle Sven (who was not a baseball fan during his lifetime, keep in mind–he spent his days in the pastures extracting the juices and oils of wild grasses, convinced there was a market for naturally grown macrobiotic healing elixers, though he was obviously a century or so early) via my trusty Ouija board, “Who is this guy?”

Feb 25, 2014; Ft Myers, FL, USA; Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Yohan Pino (63) poses during photo day at Hammond Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The board’s planchette was still until, after a commercial break and a whole half inning of some pretty offensive Twins offense, Pino finally threw another pitch.

A swinging strike to Adam Eaton. The planchette rattled across the board. Its glass eye stopped on a series of letters and magnified them, as though Sven couldn’t believe I even had to ask about Yohan Pino.

C-H-E-C-K

Another swing and a miss.

T-H-E

Eaton K’s, his bat must be made of photons.

I-N-T-E-R-N-E-T

Real helpful, Sven.

Turns out, this season wasn’t Pino’s first in the Twins system. He dominated for the then low-A affiliate Beloit Snappers in 2006. There, he threw 94 innings to the tune of 99 K’s and a 1.91 ERA.  He spent 2007 making hitters look silly in Hammond Stadium at Lee County Sports Complex. In 63.2 innings for the Miracle, he struck out 59 hitters with an even better 1.55 ERA.

His numbers were so good at Fort Meyers that the Twins brass decided to move him up mid-season to New Britain, where things didn’t go exactly as planned. Pino’s strikeout rates dropped sharply at double-A, and, in his first year there, his ERA spiked by over 4.5 runs. He never returned to form, and in the midst of the 2009 Pennant race, Pino was dealt to Cleveland for Carl Pavano‘s sweet, luscious mustache. The Twins won that trade, not just because Pavano became an integral piece in one of the most exciting divisional races in recent memory, but because Pino actually came back to the Twins before the season was over.

He began the next season in Cleveland’s system again, before spending time pitching in Toronto’s system, then Cleveland’s again, then back to Toronto’s, then to Cincinnati’s, before finally winding up in Rochester at the beginning of this year.

And now look at him. He’s a guy who no one seemed to want, whose abilities and potential were just good enough to keep him in the minors, though never quite enough to make the final cherished step. Last night he threw a gem in a Minnesota Twins uniform. You won’t find George Carlin traveling time in a tricked out phone booth, but Yohan Pino’s story is excellent, and it’s one that you should know.

Tags: Minnesota Twins Yohan Pino