FORT MYERS, FLA. – Samuel Deduno acted like he was a new guy.
Deduno worked the Twins clubhouse Thursday morning upon his return from the World Baseball Classic, greeting his teammates as they dressed in their stalls.
Deduno came up from behind to tap Joe Mauer on the shoulder, and Mauer jumped out of his chair, hugged him and asked him about his experience.
In his stall hung his No. 21 national team jersey. The Dominican Republic went 8-0 while winning the WBC title. Deduno started three of those games, earning victories in two of them. But he returned to the Twins on Thursday knowing that he still has work to do to earn a spot in the team’s rotation.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire listened in to an interview session for a few moments before chiming in with: “I know Sammy can call the president [of the Dominican Republic] and get rooms at a golf course [there] at any time. I’ve got nothing to worry about now.”
Deduno was all smiles as he talked about the WBC.
“That was pretty good,” he said. “Pitching for my country, that was awesome.”
Deduno, who went 6-5 with a 4.44 ERA in 15 starts with the Twins after getting called up last July, now turns his attention to major league camp. It certainly didn’t hurt his case that he went 2-0 with a 0.69 ERA in his three starts during the WBC.
“I think that says an awful lot about what he can bring to the table,” Gardenhire said. “He’s facing some really, really good hitters. That says a lot about his ability to get people out when he’s throwing the ball over the plate.”
Deduno’s moving fastball danced around bats at the WBC — he struck out 17 batters in 13 innings — and he used his changeup effectively. He worked with catcher Carlos Santana the same way he has worked with Twins catchers, having him set up down the middle of the plate instead of sitting on the corners and letting the baseball do its thing.
“It’s going to help a lot,” the 29-year-old Deduno said of his WBC experience and what it means to winning a spot in the Twins rotation. “I was competing, and it’s going to help.”
His next start could come as soon as Sunday vs. the Rays.
Righthanders Cole De Vries, P.J. Walters and Liam Hendriks also are candidates for the final spot in the rotation. Righthanders Mike Pelfrey, Vance Worley and Kevin Correia will take up three of the rotation spots. The fourth eventually will go to Scott Diamond, who is on the comeback trail after having a bone chip removed. Diamond won’t be ready until April 12, however, so the Twins will tap one of the four contestants to make a start April 7.
The Twins never stood in Deduno’s way when the Dominican Republic called the team in mid-February and promised that he would be used as a starter. Deduno’s strong tournament got the attention of Twins officials, and he can be Target Field-bound if he carries his WBC success into his next two Twins outings.
“We’re looking to get innings and wins,” General Manager Terry Ryan said. “As we’ve said before, when he throws it over, he does not get hit.”