But Pino got the call.
“They asked me what pitch I can throw for strikes,” Pino said. “I tell them I feel like I can throw any pitch at any count for a strike. That’s helped me a lot.”
On Thursday, he opened with first-pitch curveballs to Adam Dunn and Jose Abreu, making it known that he was going to mix things up. He gave up two runs in the third, but the rebound was quick and final, as he retired 13 of the final 14 batters he faced.
“I asked him what he thought about it,” Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson said. “He said, ‘I just looked at the catcher’s glove and just tried to hit the glove.’ He didn’t look at the hitter or get caught up in anything. That’s pretty unusual for a first start. And the amazing thing to me is that he kept himself under control from the first pitch to the last pitch.”
Backup catcher Eric Fryer is motivated by how patient Pino has been while waiting for his chance.
“He’s been down there and never once complained about how good his numbers were and that he wasn’t getting a shot,” Fryer said. “He just went about his business every single day. A lot of us can learn from that, no matter where we are at. Things can turn in the right direction for us if we keep plugging along. He really showed that down at Rochester. He was the ultimate professional and it paid off.’’