DURHAM, N.C. — Never underestimate the power of first impressions. Minnesota Twins prospect Pat Dean certainly made his first impression count after getting called up to Triple-A Rochester Aug. 5.
The Red Wings were in a heated pennant race when the former Naugatuck Greyhound and Boston College left-hander took the mound against the International League’s best team the Durham Bulls.
The Bulls, sporting a 41-18 home record and leading the league in hitting and runs scored, were simply stymied by Dean, who took a no-hitter into the sixth inning. That must have gotten the phones ringing in the Twins front office as Dean finished with a two-hit shutout effort through seven innings in a 4-2 win.
According to Dean, he did exactly what the Twins expected him to do. Maybe not in that kind of fashion but in his first start at that level. “They expect you to succeed or you wouldn’t be here,” said Dean about his eye-opening performance.
“I have no idea what their plans are with me,” Dean added. “But I hope I just made their decision a little harder. The stadiums may change, the uniform may change, your teammates may change, but when it comes down to it the game is still the same. My job is to throw strikes and as my pitching coach Marty Mason was telling me, ‘Don’t let your head get in the way of your job.’”
Following his impressive first outing, Dean earned a second start on Saturday at Harbor Park in Norfolk, Va., and proceeded to take a two-hit shutout into the seventh inning against the Tides.
How impressive was Dean? He got through the first two innings on 22 pitches (18 for strikes) and struck out the side in the second.
The crafty lefty served notice that opponents had better not rely on the 6-11 mark and 4.68 ERA he put up in New Britain with the Rock Cats as any indication as to what he can bring to the hill.
“I pitched against Freddy Garcia, and to go up against a guy with that kind of Major League success was a real confidence booster for me,” Dean said. “A lot of these guys have Major League experience, like Scott Diamond on our team, and to pick their brain and see how they do their job has been a learning experience for me.”
The scoreless streak ended for Dean at 13 2/3 innings when the Tides scored in the bottom of the seventh after Dean retired the first two batters on just three pitches. The Tides tacked on another run in the eighth as Dean left with a pitching line of 7 2/3 innings, six hits, two runs and six strikeouts.
Rochester got him off the hook by scoring two runs in the ninth but Norfolk came back with a 12-inning walk-off win. That leaves Dean with a two-game Triple-A resume of 14 2/3 innings, eight hits, two runs, 10 strikeouts, three walks, a 1.26 ERA and a 1-0 record.
The performances earned him not only the team’s player of the week honors, but also a nod as the International League Pitcher of the Week. It’s all for a team that leads the IL North by three games and has the third best record in the league.
“Being on a team in a pennant race is a lot of fun,” Dean said. “The guys in the clubhouse are great. Everyone is pulling for each other and it’s a great atmosphere. We all know that we need to be winners to move up to the next level and they are all supportive of one another.”
Dean had live support from his family in his second start, too.
“Having my dad here is great,” Dean said. “He helps me to stay grounded and focused. My mom and brother John drove down to the game on Saturday and having that family support is very satisfying. We are all enjoying this together.”
If first impressions count for something then Dean has certainly put his best foot forward.