Two pitchers will make their first Major League starts tonight--Yohan Pino for the Twins and Andrew Heaney for the Marlins. Their two paths to this point could not have been more different. Heaney was a Number One draft pick, but he's only pitched three seasons in the minors (this year being his third). Yohan Pino is not 23 like Heaney. Pino is 30-years-old and has been beating the bushes in the minors for ten long seasons. Like I said, you could not have had two different paths to this same point on the same day.
Let's start with Andrew Heaney. He was drafted in the 24th round of the 2009 draft by the Tampa Bay Rays right out of high school. But Heaney did not sign and instead went to Oklahoma State University. It turned out to be a good move because after his years in Stillwater, he was drafted in the first round of 2012, the ninth overall selection. The decision to go to college made him a few million dollars in salary.
And he has earned the draft selection. He struggled a little in his rookie league campaign despite great peripherals but the Marlins kept moving him up anyway and starting with the 2013 season, has had nothing but success along the way.
After 38 minor league games, Heaney is 17-7 overall with a 2.31 ERA, a 1.126 WHIP, 9.0 strikeouts per nine and only two walks per nine. He has given up only seven homers and sports a nifty 0.3 homers per nine mark. In other words, he is everything a young phenom should be and worthy of his status as one of the best prospects in baseball.
Heaney made Triple-A look easy to start this season despite being 3.9 years younger than the average age of his peers. His strikeout per walk ratio at New Orleans was an amazing 13.9. It seems natural for a young guy such as Heaney to make this next natural progression for a young team like the Marlins.
Nothing could be further from the truth for Yohan Pino. Pino was a free agent signing of the Twins out of Venezuela way back in 2005. He went 9-2 for the Elizebethton Twins in the Appalachian League in his first season in 2005. Teammates of his that season, Brian Duensing, Matt Garza and Kevin Slowey have made hundreds of Big League appearances. But not Pino.
Pino went 14-2 in the next season for the Single-A Beloit Snappers, again with great peripherals. One of his teammates on that team was an 18-year-old Chris Parmalee. But Pino stalled the following season in Double-A.
Pino pitched for parts of three seasons for the Double-A New Britain Rock Cats. During the 2009 season, Pino started with the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings but he was traded to the Indians' organization and was assigned to Columbus. After finishing with the Clippers in 2009, he pitched the entire season there in 2010 and his numbers slipped. After a bad start for Columbus in 2011, he was traded to Toronto and really struggled for that organization as he bounced between Las Vegas in the PCL and New Hampshire in the Eastern League through the 2012 season. His career seemed stalled.
Pino, then 29, signed with the Reds' organization and split the 2013 season between that team's Double and Triple-A teams with decent peripherals but mundane win-loss totals.
He re-signed with the Twins, his first organization, to start the 2014 season. Coming full circle to the Rochester Red Wings and now three years older than the average Triple-A opponent, Pino was 9-1 this year for the Red Wings with a 1.92 ERA and a 0.934 WHIP.
But Pino only started seven of his fourteen appearances this year for the Red Wings. The Twins must have liked what they saw enough to give him a shot...finally...in the Big Leagues.
Pino has thrown 1,093.2 innings in the minor leagues. He has a .597 winning percentage, a 1.198 career WHIP to go with a 8.2/2.2 strikeout to walk ratio. His 3.74 career ERA was somewhat inflated by pitching for the Blue Jays' organization. But the guy has certainly been good enough to have gotten a shot somewhere along the line. But he hasn't.
Until now. So, yes, Yohan Pino's debut could not be more different than Andrew Heaney's. The younger pitcher is making the next natural transition. The elder is finally getting a shot after paying long dues and riding way too many buses.
I will be rooting for them both because I am a sucker for both kinds of debuts. But I confess that I will really be pulling for Pino. After all, after all those years, the guy is finally getting a payoff for his efforts.