There is one certainty in the wild world of sports: You win some, you lose some. Naugatuck native Pat Dean has been on both sides in his first month in Major League Baseball.
Dean, a 2010 third-round draft choice of the Minnesota Twins, made a lasting impression on Sunday afternoon at Target Field in Minnesota. The Naugatuck High School and Boston College grad threw six plus innings of three-hit ball against the most potent offense in the Major Leagues: the Boston Red Sox.
Dean even struck out the legendary Big Papi (David Ortiz) in a feat that he deemed a memory to last a lifetime. He even sent a baseball over to the Red Sox clubhouse after the game for Ortiz to sign to mark the memorable occasion.
“It was surreal,” Dean said. “I’m a Yankee fan but I grew up watching these guys. To face the Red Sox and to strike out a legend like Ortiz is something I will never forget.”
In his first month in the Major Leagues, Dean has felt the highs and lows of being in the Show.
Dean has appeared in seven games, with five starts, and has an ERA of 4.17. His record stands at 1-2, but the Twins have won four of the five games Dean has started. That includes a 7-4 extra-inning win over Boston on Sunday. Dean took a no decision versus the Red Sox, but when he left the game the Twins were up 4-1.
Dean recorded his first big league victory two weeks ago in a win at Seattle. He went seven innings on the hill against the Mariners, allowing just four hits and striking out eight in a 7-2 victory.
“The guys have been great to me,” Dean said. “They have made me feel part of this team and the longer I’m here the more I realize I belong. Phil Hughes bought me a bottle of Dom Perignon to mark the occasion and wrote on the box ‘Congratulations on your first big league win.’”
Following his first Major League win, Dean struggled against Oakland and Miami. It was a bump in the road as he surrendered nine hits and four runs in five innings against the A’s. Then the Marlins tagged him for seven hits and four runs in 4 1/3 innings.
Needless to say the start against the Red Sox was a big step for Dean in letting his manager and teammates know that he’s in it for the long haul. The lanky lefty went out and made a statement right off the bat.
Dean struck out Mookie Betts, the Sox led-off hitter. Following a walk to Dustin Pedroia, he got the hot-hitting Xander Bogaerts out on a pop up to first base. Then came the clincher, striking out Big Papi to end the inning. It showed not only everyone in the ballpark, but the whole baseball world, that Pat Dean is a Major League pitcher.
“I was definitely more aggressive pounding the strike zone,” said Dean of his performance against Boston. “Miami waited me out and then took advantage when I did make a mistake.”
If the pitching rotation holds true, Dean’s next start will come against the New York Yankees — his favorite team growing up — Friday night.
To face the Red Sox and then the Yankees in back-to-back starts has got to be what Little League players dream about growing up. Dean is living that dream.
“I still get the butterflies when I’m out there just like I always do,” Dean said. “But this has certainly been an amazing experience for me and it’s something I want to be doing for a very long time. I think I have shown to my manager and my teammates that I can give the team a chance to be in the ball game and win.”