The first time Minnesota called up Pat Dean to the Major Leagues this season, the Naugatuck native put up some impressive numbers against Toronto, Seattle and the Red Sox. Then came the seven-run outing against the Yankees in 2 1/3 innings that led to him being sent back down to Triple-A Rochester.
Twins manager Paul Molitor’s take was Dean needed to throw more off speed pitches and curve balls. So, the former Naugatuck Greyhound went down to work on a those pitches, and initially things didn’t go too well.
That can happen when a pitcher is working on a particular pitch against live batters. Things started to come together when Dean went 5 1/3 innings for a win over Lehigh Valley at the end of July.
Another strong performance in his next start — 6 2/3 innings, six strikeouts and a 3-2 win over Pawtucket — and the confidence was back.
“When I was sent down I was told to work on the change-up,” said Dean. “When things are not going well it can really wear on you mentally. I stopped throwing the straight change and developed a more split finger change and started getting the results I was looking for.”
With his confidence back and the Twins’ bullpen missing three pitchers due to injuries, Minnesota brought Dean back up to the Big Leagues on Aug. 12.
Dean wasted no time in showing the Twins he was a pitcher they can rely on. In a 7-3 loss to the Royals, Dean came on in the sixth inning and went three innings to finish out the game. He allowed a solo home run and struck out six, including the last five batters he faced.
That certainly got management’s attention, but there has been no decision as to what will happen in the bullpen once the other pitchers are off the disabled list. For now, Dean is trying to make it until the end of the month when rosters are expanded from 25 to 40 players.
“No one has said anything to me,” Dean said. “The only thing I can do is to stay healthy and keep myself available. I think once I stopped over analyzing every pitch I regained my focus.
“I’m just taking it day by day and hopefully I will be able to stick around when the roster expands at the end of the month.”
Dean got another opportunity to show his new pitch when he went another three innings to close out another loss to the Royals, 8-1, Aug. 18.
The lanky lefty showed his grit retiring the first seven batters he faced, including three strikeouts. That’s when the Royals managed to string together three straight hits all on pitches well out of the strike zone. A two run double followed before Dean induced a foul fly ball for an out and a groundout to get out of the inning.
On Tuesday, Dean pitched the ninth inning in an 8-3 loss to the Tigers. He gave up a leadoff single, but got a double play ball and a ground out to end the inning.
With nine strikeouts in seven innings the new pitch seems to have found its way into the arsenal, and Dean is looking forward to his next chance out of the bullpen.