Twins right-hander Yohan Pino will make his first Major League start in Thursday night's series opener against the White Sox at Target Field, and it's about time.
Pino, at 30 years and 175 days old, will be the oldest starting pitcher to make his MLB debut in franchise history. The previous record was held by Jug Thesenga who was 30 years, 127 days old in his first start for the Washington Senators on Sept. 1, 1944.
The native Venezuelan's fastball usually doesn't crack 88 mph, but he has a nasty curveball that helped make him the club's preferred choice to replace Samuel Deduno in the rotation.
"He's been lights-out and has been pitching fantastic along with three or four other guys down there," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's been throwing the ball well and doing everything they asked. He has a great ERA and the whole package. I think we could've had our choices down there and this is who they decided to go with because he's worked very hard."
Pino has gone 9-1 with a 1.92 ERA at Triple-A Rochester. His strikeout/walk ratio (61/16) is also impressive. He'll be making his debut after 10 seasons and 292 career appearances in the Minors.
Meanwhile, the Sox will send Jose Quintana (3-7, 3.98 ERA) to the mound to face a Twins lineup that could only muster two runs in a three-game sweep by the Red Sox.
Quintana is not an ideal candidate to keep Minnesota quiet in the batter's box. He's given up 10 earned runs over his past two starts, including a porous appearance against the Royals on Friday in which he surrendered eight hits and six earned runs in six innings.
"I wanted to throw good pitches, but I missed a lot with location," Quintana said of his first-inning performance (five earned runs). "A little bit high, too. The first inning was a terrible inning for me."
The Sox haven't faced the Twins since the season-opening series, when they took two of three at U.S. Cellular Field. They've had success at Target Field recently, though. Chicago is 18-10 there since 2011.
White Sox: Front office thinking long term
• Chicago has waded through injuries and a relatively inexperienced roster to stay competitive in a wide-open American League Central. But the front office is focused on making moves that will build a consistent winner and is unlikely to add a "rental" player for a run at a playoff spot at the expense of the farm system.
Some may view the club's 11-game road trip that starts Friday as a "make or break" stretch of games that determines whether the White Sox will be buyers or sellers at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Manager Robin Ventura isn't one of them.
"Every day seems to be that way. We're just going to play," Ventura said. "We don't sit there and think just because we're going on the road for an extra four days, it's going to be any different. Every game is important. When's the exact day that everything starts flying? You hear rumors, I don't know. We're just going to continue to play."
Twins: Nunez could return Thursday
• Infielder Eduardo Nunez ran the bases and took ground balls at third without any issues before Wednesday's game and said he's ready to return to action.
Nunez suffered a hamstring strain in Saturday's game, but tested it out under the watchful eyes of Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, assistant trainer Tony Leo and strength and conditioning coordinator Perry Castellano on Wednesday at Fenway Park.
Nunez was held out of the lineup for a fourth straight game, but told Gardenhire he believes he'll be ready to start again Thursday.
There's a chance the Twins will remain cautious with Nunez, as it didn't appear he was running full speed in his baserunning drills from first to third. But he's expected to avoid the 15-day disabled list.
• Quintana has 69 starts to Pino's zero, but he's more than five years younger than the Twins' starter.
• Pino's 1.92 ERA is the second-best of his Minor League career, and certainly the most impressive. His personal record of 1.91 came eight years ago at Class A Beloit.