June 2014

Pino to start Thursday, Deduno headed to bullpen

BOSTON — The Twins will recall Yohan Pino from Triple-A Rochester to start against the White Sox on Thursday, with fellow right-hander Samuel Deduno heading to the bullpen. A corresponding roster move will come on Thursday.

Pino, 30, has excelled with Rochester this year, going 9-1 with a 1.92 ERA while making seven starts and seven relief appearances. The 6-foot-2 right-hander also has struck out 61 and walked 16 in 61 innings.

He rejoined the Twins organization this year after being traded to Cleveland for right-hander Carl Pavano in 2009. He’ll be making his Major League debut after 10 seasons and 292 career appearances in the Minors. He’ll have to be added to the 40-man roster but the Twins can shift right-hander Mike Pelfrey to the 60-day disabled list to make room for him. The 25-man roster move is still unclear but is likely to be a pitcher sent out, as Twins manager Ron Gardenhire wants to keep a 12-man pitching staff.

Gardenhire said Pino isn’t overpowering, as his fastball averages just 87-88 mph, but possesses a strong curveball and was the most deserving of several candidates at Rochester, including top prospects Alex Meyer and Trevor May.

“He’s been lights out and has been pitching fantastic along with three or four other guys down there,” Gardenhire said. “He’s been throwing the ball well and doing everything they asked. He has a great ERA and the whole package. I think we could’ve had our choices down there and this who they decided to go with because he’s worked very hard.”

Deduno, meanwhile, had struggled over his last four outings with a 10.13 ERA and will head back to the bullpen where he began the season. He took the decision in stride, even though he prefers to be a starting pitcher.

“I’m happy to be here and in the bullpen,” Deduno said. “I’m going to my job. I have to keep my head up.”

Twins exploring their options with Josmil Pinto

TORONTO — With Kendrys Morales set to be the everyday designated hitter for the Twins moving forward, the club is deciding what to do with rookie catcher Josmil Pinto.

Pinto started 19 games at designated hitter as a way to get his bat into the lineup with Kurt Suzuki serving as the primary catcher this season. Suzuki made his 46th start behind the plate on Wednesday with right-hander Phil Hughes on the mound, while Pinto has made just 18 starts at catcher this year.

“With Hughes going, I really wanted Suzuki to catch Hughes,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Pinto has been scuffling along with his throwing and all those things. We’re trying to do some work with him to get him straightened out a little bit. We talked to Suzuki about this and told him he might have to catch three this series until we get the kid straightened out.”

Pinto has had trouble defensively this year, as he’s yet to throw out an opposing base stealer in 16 attempts and also has made five errors. He’s also still working on his pitch calling and framing skills.

So the Twins could look to option him to Triple-A Rochester to get more consistent playing time and work on his defense. Triple-A catchers Eric Fryer and Chris Herrmann are both on the 40-man roster, and one of the two could be called up to replace Pinto.

Pinto, 25, also started off hot offensively but has cooled down since May 1. Some of his scuffles could come from a lack of consistent playing time but is hitting just .200/.227/.329 with two homers and seven RBIs in 23 games since May 1.

Gardenhire said a decision hasn’t been made on Pinto yet. But reading between the lines, it’s becoming more likely he’ll go down to Triple-A to continue his development.

“It’s all the things we’re talking about,” Gardenhire said. “We’re trying to figure out our route here. We’re trying to see how we can work him in and keep him developing, too. We’re working on it. The whole process.”

Mike Pelfrey undergoes surgery on right elbow

TORONTO — Right-hander Mike Pelfrey underwent surgery on Tuesday to clean up scar tissue in his right elbow that was causing pressure on his ulnar nerve, the Twins announced. The official term for the operation is right elbow ulnar nerve decompression surgery.

Pelfrey met with Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion on his elbow in Pensacola, Fla., on Monday, and Dr. Andrews performed the surgery on Tuesday. He’s expected to be out two to four months.

Pelfrey had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow on May 1, 2012, which caused him to miss the rest of that season and led to the scar tissue buildup in his elbow that necessitated Tuesday’s operation. But his ulnar collateral ligament is fine, as the injury was related to the ulnar nerve.

Pelfrey began to feel numbness in his fingers during Spring Training but never notified the training staff, as it was something he’d dealt with earlier in his career without any issues.

He went on to post a 7.99 ERA in five starts with diminished velocity before going on the 15-day disabled list with a groin strain on May 2. He made two rehab starts with Triple-A Rochester before he began to feel what he thought was shoulder pain but turned out to be related to the ulnar nerve in his elbow after he had both his shoulder and elbow checked out by Twins doctors in late May.

Pelfrey, 30, posted a 5.19 ERA in 29 starts in his return from Tommy John surgery last year, and the Twins were hopeful he’d bounce back this season after being another year removed from the surgery. He signed a two-year, $11 million deal in the offseason to remain in Minnesota.

Kendrys Morales makes his Twins debut at DH

TORONTO — In a surprise move, Kendrys Morales made his Twins debut on Monday, batting sixth and starting at designated hitter against the Blue Jays.

Morales, who officially joined the Twins on Sunday after signing a one-year, $12 million prorated contract, was expected to need roughly a week to get ready before playing in his first game.

Morales hasn’t played since last September, but called bullpen coach Bobby Cuellar on Sunday night and asked him to tell Twins manager Ron Gardenhire he was ready to play on Monday.

“He said he’s been sitting for four months and he thought about it and watched the game last night so he wants to play,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “I got no problem with that. I just told me he has to tell me how he’s feeling out there.”

Gardenhire said it’ll be up to Morales to determine how much he’ll play in his first week with the club, as he’s still trying to knock off some rust. His first start came against knuckleballer R.A. Dickey but Gardenhire said that didn’t factor into the decision for Morales to start on Monday.

“I don’t know if it’s easier to come back and hit against a knuckleballer or against a guy throwing 95 [mph],” Gardenhire said. “I’ve never seen this before with a guy sitting out this long. But he’s been swinging out there so it’s not like he’s swinging cold turkey or coming out of a hospital bed.”

Morales, who turns 31 on June 20, worked out six days a week at agent Scott Boras’ training facility in Miami to stay sharp. He faced live pitching there, including facing free-agent right-hander Joel Pineiro, according to Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony. Antony was also on board with the decision to put Morales right into the lineup.

“To me, the only way to knock off the rust is to play,” Antony said. “Maybe he struggles or doesn’t give us much for a week but then he takes off and does fine. You can wait a week and let him take BP but there’s nothing really to simulate a real game. So I think it’s great he wants to play.”

Source: Twins sign Kendrys Morales to one-year deal

MINNEAPOLIS — The Twins reached an agreement with free-agent slugger Kendrys Morales on Saturday, according to a Major League source familiar with the negotiations. The deal is a one-year, $12 million prorated contract worth roughly $7.6 million.

The Twins, however, have not confirmed the deal and an official announcement hasn’t been made. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports was the first to report it.

Morales, 30, was a free agent over the offseason but did not sign with a team after declining a qualifying offer from the Mariners. If another team signed him, they would’ve lost a pick in the First-Year Player Draft but with the Draft already underway, the Twins won’t lose a pick for signing Morales.

The signing comes as a surprise, as the Twins were never heavily linked to the Cuban-born slugger. But they wanted to add power bat to their offense, and Morales certainly brings that.

The switch-hitter batted .277/.336/.449 with 23 homers, 34 doubles and 80 RBIs with the Mariners last year. He played just 31 games at first base while serving as designated hitter in 121 games. The Twins have Joe Mauer at first base so Morales is again expected to see a bulk of his time at DH.

Morales, who also played with the Angels from 2006-2012, is a career .280/.333/.480 hitter with 102 homers, 130 doubles and 165 RBIs in 620 games.

Twins select HS SS Nick Gordon with No. 5 pick

MINNEAPOLIS — The Twins went with a position player with the No. 5 overall pick in Thursday’s First-Year Player Draft, selecting highly athletic shortstop Nick Gordon from Olympia High School in Orlando.

Gordon, the son of former All-Star closer Tom Gordon and the brother of Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon, had been linked to Minnesota leading up to the Draft, and the Twins got their man with the fifth overall selection. The Twins have $3.85 million available for their first pick.

The Draft continues on Friday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com pregame show begins at 12:30p ET, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at 1p ET.

Gordon, ranked as the No. 5 overall Draft prospect by MLB.com, is the consensus top infielder in the Draft, and is expected to remain at shortstop where’s he’s regarded as a plus defender.

Gordon’s speed, arm and defense all rate as plus tools, and also boasts above-average bat speed and strong wrists at the plate, giving him surprising power from his 6-foot-2, 170-pound frame. The 18-year-old added 15 pounds of muscle over the last year, and will need to continue to add strength as he advances through the Minor Leagues.

Gordon, who hits from the left side but throws right-handed, is also regarded as a top prospect as a pitcher with a fastball in the low-90s and a good curveball. But much like MLB.com’s No. 1 overall prospect Byron Buxton, who was also a dominant high school pitcher, the Twins are inclined to keep Gordon as a position player.

Gordon, who is committed to play baseball at Florida State, hit .494 with a .576 on-base percentage in 27 games his senior year at Olympia High School en route to being named Gatorade Florida Baseball Player of the year for a second straight season. He hit five homers, 10 doubles and two triples with 27 RBIs and 28 runs scored. He also stole 13 bases.

Gordon was also named Gatorade Florida Baseball Player of the Year his junior year after hitting .505 with two homers and 30 RBIs, while also going 5-1 with five saves, a 0.78 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 35 2/3 innings pitched.