Baseball / Sports

Pino, 30, makes big league debut, helps Twins beat White Sox

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins rookie didn't look overwhelmed Thursday in striking out three of the first four batters of his major league career.

When he gave up a couple runs, he shook them off and retired the side in order in the next inning.

No, there were no signs of precociousness from Yohan Pino as he made his big league debut. But perhaps that's because he's 30 years old and experienced to the point where it shouldn't matter if he's pitching in a park with one deck or two.

Pino became the oldest Twins player to make a major league debut when he squared off against the Chicago White Sox in a game delayed more than two hours by rain at Target Field. Once the game began, he kept the Twins in it until Joe Mauer's second RBI hit of the game helped them to a 4-2 victory that ended their five-game losing streak.

With the score tied at 2-2, Danny Santana led off the eighth inning with a single off White Sox reliever Jake Petricka and went to third on Brian Dozier's single to right. Petricka got ahead on the count 0-2 to Mauer, but the Twins first baseman worked it to 3-2 before slapping a double to left field, driving in Santana. Dozier later scored on Kurt Suzuki's sacrifice fly.

Casey Fien had replaced Pino, so he didn't get a decision. But Pino held Chicago to two runs over seven innings on five hits, one walk and six strikeouts.

Having pitched 10 seasons in the minors, Pino has developed a feel for reading hitters that he can use in the majors. At least that's what Twins assistant General Manager Ron Antony implied before the game. Pino was 9-1 with a 1.92 ERA in 14 games, seven starts, at Class AAA Rochester this year, forcing the Red Wings to remove Scott Diamond from the rotation to make room for him.

"When you look at some guys, you look for that out pitch or that big pitch you put a number on," Antony said. "I don't know if he has that. The way he goes about it, his composure, the makeup, the strikeability, the mixture of pitches and being able to set up hitters.

"He pitches like a veteran and he is a veteran. Just not major league."

Pino has some Phil Hughes in him that he loves to get ahead early in the count and pound the strike zone. He failed to throw a first-pitch strike only four times during the first five innings. He kept hitters guessing, starting off mashers Jose Abreu and Adam Dunn with his big breaking ball in the second inning.

The Twins took a 1-0 lead in the second when Josh Willingham pounded a high fastball from White Sox starter Jose Quintana far down the left field line for a solo home run. But Chicago got to Pino in the third when they loaded the bases before Conor Gillaspie lined a two-run single to center.

Mauer tied the score in the third with a run-scoring single to left, just his second RBI this month. Mauer went 2-for-4 with two RBI in the game, his first multi-RBI game since May 3.

Were the runs off Pino in the third signs of trouble? Nope. Pino retired 12 of the last 13 batters he faced, stranding Alejandro De Aza in the fifth following his leadoff single. There were a few deep fly balls hit off of him, but a pitcher can get away with that at Target Field.

The rains that walloped the area Thursday forced the game to be delayed for 2 hours, 6 minutes, the fifth delay of the season. Twins officials didn't want another game to be rescheduled and were comfortable waiting until after 9 p.m. for the first pitch.

There was another delay in the fourth when a foul ball off Alexei Ramirez's bat hit home plate umpire Mike Muchlinski directly in his facemask. Muchlinski was checked on by Twins trainer Dave Pruemer and finished the inning. But he left the game at the end of fourth and was replaced by crew chief Mark Wegner.

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