Naugatuck’s Dean chasing Major League dream again

Naugatuck’s Pat Dean pitches for the Kia Tigers in the Korean Baseball Organization in 2017. -CONTRIBUTED

After spending the last two seasons pitching in Korea with the Kia Tigers of the Korea Baseball Organization, Naugatuck native Pat Dean is back in the U.S.

Dean, a left-handed pitcher who was selected in the third round of the 2010 Major League Baseball draft out of Boston College by the Minnesota Twins, signed another minor league contract with the Twins in February.

“It’s nice to be back and chasing that Major League dream again,” Dean said. “The last few years have been a great experience being in Korea. Now I’m looking forward to try and make it back to the big leagues.”

After being drafted, Dean pitched six years in the minor leagues for the Twins. Dean went 51-57 with a 4.14 ERA and 507 strikeouts in 150 starts, and helped the AAA Rochester Red Wings make the playoffs in 2013.

That got the attention of the Twins’ front office, and Dean made his MLB debut in 2016. His first call-up to the big leagues lasted 42 days. Dean won his second start, allowing four hits and striking out eight in seven innings against the Seattle Mariners.

Dean went on to get starts against the Red Sox — striking out David Oritz — and the Yankees. Dean was called back up in August of 2016 and finished another 48-day stint in the Majors before being sent back to Rochester at the end of the season.

The Naugatuck High School graduate then took his game to Korea as a free-agent. He went 9-7 in 2017 and helped the Kia Tigers win the championship. Last season, Dean went 6-7 on the hill as the Tigers missed the playoffs.

Dean opted not return to Korea this season so he could make another run at the Major Leagues. The Twins signed him to a minor league contract on Feb. 4 and assigned him to the big league club on Feb. 23 to begin spring training games.

“I’ve been working to develop and fine-tune some of my off speed pitches,” Dean said. “The game has really changed a lot over the past couple of years and has gotten really analytical. They have different machines now that measure how a pitch moves, what type of pitches you should throw and to what locations. I’m working on how to get the most out of my pitches.”

Dean has put up some encouraging numbers early on in spring training. He allowed a single and walk before getting two swinging strikeouts in his first turn on the hill against the Red Sox on Feb. 24. He also gave up a three-run homerun to Boston’s Mike Chavis.

“He’s a big kid and he went down and got that change-up,” Dean said. “The ball was down but he just went and got it. It was nice to come back and get those two strikeouts, certainly helped with the confidence.”

Dean took the mound against the Phillies and Blue Jays before facing the Red Sox again on March 13. In his three appearances after allowing the three-run homerun to Chavis, Dean pitched 1 and 2/3 innings, allowed one hit and struck out two.

“There is a group of about ten pitchers in what they call depth camp,” Dean said. “We are on a rotation, and every three or four days we go over and back up a Major league game.”

In 19 starts with the Twins over his career, Dean has a 1-6 record with a 6.28 ERA. But more importantly, he has 67 big league innings under his belt.

Dean will most likely begin the season in Rochester with the opportunity to be called-up at some point during the season. As a non-roster player, the Twins would need to purchase Dean’s contract from Rochester since the team can only protect 15 players in its entire minor league organization to make up their 40-man roster.

This is common throughout MLB. Teams stack their minor league rosters with several players who have big league experience in the event that they need someone to fill a role at a moment’s notice.

For Dean, it’s all about having that opportunity.