Forget about visions of sugar plums, any child who has ever laced up the spikes and ran across a baseball diamond had dreams of one day playing baseball in the Major Leagues.
Naugatuck’s Pat Dean realized that dream May 11 when the door of the bullpen opened at Target Field in Minnesota for the top of the fifth inning and he was thrust into the spotlight. When he stepped out onto the field, Dean, who started his seventh season as a minor leaguer this year, was making his Major League debut for the Twins.
Back home, the Borough of Naugatuck was in a frenzy as social media lit up with news and updates about Dean’s every pitch.
Dean immediately left no doubt that he belonged in the Show as he set down the Baltimore Orioles on eight pitches, six for strikes, including his first Major League strikeout. By the end of the day, Dean pitched 2 2/3 innings allowing four hits, two earned runs, walking two and striking out three. The Twins lost, 9-2.
“I just had a feeling that this was going to be the day that I got in after sitting for a couple of days,” said Dean, who was called up to the majors on May 7. “I was getting myself mentally prepared around the third inning. So when the bullpen phone rang I wasn’t as shocked as I thought I would be.
“Once the bullpen door opened that’s when my heart really started racing. It was a great way to get started retiring the side in order. I didn’t have the command on my fastball as I usually have. I was probably trying to do too much and was overthrowing that led to a couple of walks.”
Dean went out for his second inning and had to face Chris Davis, who already hit a home run in the third inning, and Mark Trumbo, who already sent two out of the yard.
Davis doubled in the gap and Trumbo lined to left. After allowing the first run of his Major League career, Dean got Caleb Joseph swinging at strike three to end the inning leaving the bases loaded.
“It’s hard to measure a guy’s nerves when he gets an opportunity,” Minnesota manager Paul Molitor told MLB.com following Dean’s debut. “He’s known as a strike-thrower and he didn’t have the best command today. But he got through a couple, and we’ll see how we use him going forward.”
Dean got on the Twins’ radar last season in Rochester when he led Triple-A with 179 innings pitched and went 12-11 with a stingy 2.82 ERA. That got the former Naugatuck Greyhound and 2010 third-round draft choice out of Boston College added to the Twins’ 40-man roster last November.
He was awarded with an invite to the Major League camp in spring training before starting this season with Rochester. He led the team with 36 innings pitched in six starts with a tidy 3.00 ERA at the time of his call-up.
“I went to spring training trying not to put any added pressure on myself,” Dean said. “One thing I wasn’t going to do was play GM and figured I would open the season at Rochester and hope for a September call-up.
“It has happened a lot sooner than I expected. Hopefully my next time out I will be able to keep my emotions in check and just throw strikes like I usually do and not get behind batters.”
That next time Dean was referring to came Monday versus the Detroit Tigers. Dean came in with two outs in the first inning after starter Jose Berrios gave up seven runs. Dean allowed one run in the first, then shut out the Tigers before giving up a solo home run in the seventh.
Dean’s pitching allowed the Twins to tie the game at 8 in the top of the seventh. The Twins lost, 10-8, and Dean was charged with the loss. In all, Dean threw 91 pitches in his second appearance with four strikeouts and two earned runs.
Dean is scheduled to make a spot start on Saturday against the Blue Jays after the Twins optioned Berrios to Rochester, the team announced on its website Tuesday night. Dean will get his shot to prove he belongs in the rotation.
The whirlwind experience to the Major Leagues has brought the entire Dean family along for the ride. Pat’s wife Katie, his brother John and his parents Greg and Lisa arrived in Chicago for a weekend series with the White Sox when Pat was called up on May 7.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see Pat pitch in his first game as we left that morning,” Greg Dean said. “We had to get back to our jobs but we did experience the thrill of being there for his first few games in the Major Leagues.
“This has been such an amazing journey for the entire family. I have a 3-year-old car with 75,000 miles on it as we have followed Pat from Wisconsin to Florida. We can’t thank the people in Naugatuck enough for the support they have shown to Pat and our family. We are so proud of Pat and for him to have made it to the Major Leagues is a direct result of every coach and teammate that has helped him along the way.”