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Almost famous
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - What would you do for 13 innings of fame?

In a span of two weeks, Sam Deduno went from unheard of to almost famous.

He didn't jump off a roof and scream "I am a golden god!" if that's what you're wondering. And I'm pretty sure Penny Lane wasn't around when Luis Figueroa struck out for the final out of the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

But Deduno certainly made the most of his 15 minutes of fame this past month at the WBC. Or if you want to be more specific, his 13 innings.

If you haven't been introduced to Deduno yet, he's a 29-year-old starting pitcher for the Minnesota Twins. He's also a big reason why the Dominican Republic didn't lose a game at the WBC.

Deduno finished the Classic with a 2-0 record and a 0.69 ERA in three starts. During those three appearances, Deduno tallied 17 strikeouts while allowing only five free passes. He carried a spiffy 1.23 WHIP for the tournament.

Deduno was dominant in the title game Tuesday night at AT&T Park in San Francisco. In five scoreless frames against Puerto Rico, the righthander generated five strikeouts.

That came just five nights after pummeling the Americans in a crucial game at Marlins Park in Miami. During that outing, Deduno recorded seven punchouts in four innings. Four came on the breaking ball, two were on changeups and he even mixed in a fastball to retire Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia.

Over the last week, Deduno has struck out two former MVPs (Ryan Braun and Jimmy Rollins) and three players who competed in last year's All-Star Game (Yadier Molina, Carlos Beltran and Adam Jones). Not bad for a guy who's owned in 0.2 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues.

Deduno had never started a big league game until last summer when he made his season debut against Texas on July 7. Deduno's final 2012 stat line included a 6-5 record and a 4.44 ERA.

Certainly Deduno has all the familiar symptoms of a risky fantasy player. He's inexperienced (just 21 major league appearances), he walks too many hitters (1.08 K to BB ratio in 22) and his WHIP is a disaster (1.54 in 2012).

At age 29, his ceiling isn't especially high, either. And we all know how things turned out for Daisuke Matsuzaka after his MVP performance at the 2009 WBC (4-6, 5.76 ERA in 12 starts for the Red Sox in '09).

With that said, Deduno has a number of things working in his favor. The lack of experience, though perceived as a weakness, might actually help him as he navigates his way through the American League. Most hitters haven't faced Deduno yet and that lack of familiarity could serve him well in the beginning.

Age isn't as big a deal as the experts would lead you to believe. R.A. Dickey winning the Cy Young award at age 37 last season is proof of that. If anything, Deduno's eight years in the minors should give him a leg up.

Though Deduno usually does pitch to contact, hitters rarely leave the yard against him because of his excellent sinker. If he had thrown enough innings to qualify, his 1.48 ground ball to fly ball ratio would have led the American League last season.

Pitcher-friendly Target Field has finished near the bottom of the league in park factor two of the last three seasons, which is probably why Deduno pitched significantly better when the Twins were at home last season (4-1, 3.08 ERA, .163 opponent batting average in Minnesota versus 2-4, 5.71, .306 on the road).

Deduno's breaking ball was devastating at the WBC and it's a part of his repertoire that has improved dramatically over the past couple of seasons. When Deduno made his big league debut for the Rockies in 2010, 66 percent of his pitches were fastballs. That number fell to 53.4 percent last season as Deduno became more comfortable with his other pitches, including a slider he added to his arsenal in 2012. Deduno has also begun to mix in his changeup more regularly, using it to strike out Rollins, Alex Rios and Eric Hosmer at the WBC.

It's also worth noting that with the exception of two really poor outings, Deduno was quietly one of the Twins' best pitchers last season. If you erase Deduno's meltdowns against Detroit (2 1/3 IP, 7 H, 7 ER, 3 BB, 2 HR) and Texas (5 IP, 11 H, 7 ER) from the record books, his ERA last season would have been 3.14. Again, both of those starts came away from Target Field.

Expectations are pretty low in Minnesota this season and Deduno will be stashed at the back of a rotation that includes Vance Worley, Scott Diamond, Mike Pelfrey and Kevin Correia. That doesn't exactly scream "pressure." Deduno will be in a nurturing environment and if he does hit a rough patch along the way, he'll be able to lean on veteran pitching coach Rick Anderson for instruction.

Odds are Deduno won't be taken on draft day. But if you're looking for a sleeper to keep in your back pocket, Deduno definitely fits the bill.

And if Deduno somehow does blow up and become an international phenomenon? Well then I guess we'll just have to call him a golden god.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Jesse Pantuosco at jpantuosco@sportsnetwork.com.

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