Samuel Deduno

Samuel Deduno completes WBC breakthrough with title game victory

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Yan Gomes, the only major leaguer Brazil has ever produced, opted out of the World Baseball Classic to help his chances of making the Indians.

He won’t.

Melky Mesa, a veteran minor leaguer in the Yankees system, was all set to be part of the Dominican Republic’s left-field committee. Then Curtis Granderson got hurt. Presented with a slight chance of winning a bench job, he skipped out on the WBC.

And then the Yankees signed Brennan Boesch and Ben Francisco.

It would have been hard to blame Samuel Deduno for opting out of the WBC. Although he was the Twins’ second most successful starter while going 6-5 with a 4.44 ERA last year, he was bumped from the 40-man roster over the winter and went unclaimed on waivers. He opted to re-up with the Twins on a minor league deal, which put him in a battle with Cole De Vries and Liam Hendriks for the fifth spot in the rotation.

But instead of staying in camp and fighting for a spot in the traditional fashion, Deduno decided to represent his country and hope to stay in the race while away. To say it worked out would be a huge understatement. If he hadn’t already, Deduno clinched his rotation spot with five scoreless innings against Puerto Rico in Tuesday’s championship game. Overall, he allowed just one run and posted a 17/5 K/BB ratio in 13 innings over the course of his three starts.

It was a tournament MVP-quality showing for the 29-year-old Deduno, who was originally signed by the Rockies in 2003. He briefly reached the majors with Colorado in 2010, but the team dropped him from the roster the following winter. He went on to appear in two games with the Padres in 2011 before getting his first real opportunity last year. While he was moderately successful for the Twins, the 57/53 K/BB ratio in 79 innings scared everyone off when he was available on waivers over the winter. Fastball movement has long been Denudo’s biggest asset, though it’s contributed to his problems with walks. He also has a nice curve. Some have thought that package would play better in relief, but it didn’t materialize when the Padres tried converting him in 2011.

Deduno seems to have taken a step forward now. Instead of aiming for the corners, he’s just throwing to the catcher’s mitt and let his fastball cut and dive as it will. He still doesn’t have much of a changeup, and he likely will be undone by walks from time to time. However, there have to be several teams kicking themselves for not taking him on for a measly $500,000 over the winter.

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.