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MIN@SF: Deduno strikes out four over 5 2/3 innings

Injuries have riddled the Rangers rotation this season, but first-year starter Nick Martinez is proof that bad luck can help build a team's future.

 

The 23-year-old Martinez (1-1, 2.14 ERA) was supposed to be a relief pitcher this year. But thanks to injuries to hurlers Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and Joe Saunders -- to name a few veterans who have gone down this spring -- he's in the midst of his second starting-rotation stint in 2014.

Martinez collected his first big league victory Saturday against the Tigers in his fourth start and has yet to give up more than three earned runs in a game.

"I feel comfortable," Martinez said. "I never felt uncomfortable even when I was in the bullpen. I had a pretty good routine in the bullpen. But being in the bullpen, your routine you have to play it by ear. Your routine as a starter is set in stone."

He doesn't have enough innings to qualify for the league leaders, but his ERA is the fifth lowest in the American League among pitchers with at least 30 innings pitched.

"What helps me be successful is commanding my fastball," Martinez said. "As long as I can do that, I'll be successful."

The Twins, meanwhile, will also put a reliever-turned-starter on the mound Thursday afternoon. Samuel Deduno (1-3, 3.48) has pitched well this year after being promoted to the rotation in early May.

He's made four starts (two of them quality) and also has yet to surrender more than three earned runs in an outing.

"We'll keep running him out there," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "You earn your spots up here and he's definitely doing that. I don't think anybody -- if he keeps pitching like that -- is going to take his spot in the rotation."

Stamina has been his biggest issue so far -- Deduno has not made an appearance longer than six innings in 2014. He managed to do so six times in 18 starts last season.

The other problem plaguing Deduno has been run support. Minnesota batters have managed a total of nine runs in his four starts, including a sluggish performance in a 2-1 loss at San Francisco last Saturday.

With Josh Willingham and Oswaldo Arcia back in the lineup, however, there is reason for hope that the Twins can snap out of their offensive funk.

Twins: Pinto to get start
Gardenhire plans on putting Josmil Pinto behind the plate on Thursday afternoon to catch Deduno.

"I like the way he handles him," Gardenhire said. "He controls him a little bit better right now. He's able to go talk to him and calm him down."

In five appearances with Pinto at catcher, Deduno has a 2.70 ERA. When comparing that with usual starting backstop Kurt Suzuki (4.50 ERA in six appearances), the advantage clearly goes to Pinto when Deduno is on the mound.

A second-year player with only 57 appearances to his name, Pinto is hitting .241 this season. He's made three errors in 93 chances for a fielding percentage of .968. Despite the low numbers, Gardenhire wants to keep giving him chances.

"Pinto is gonna get plenty of swings," Gardenhire said.

Rangers: Lineup changes possible
Manager Ron Washington is considering using Adrian Beltre or Shin-Soo Choo at designated hitter for the early day game after the night game.

Beltre has started 30 straight games at third base since coming off the disabled list on April 25 and this could be a good time to give him a half-day off. But it would mean Luis Sardinas would have to play third base, which he has never done in the Majors.

"He can catch the ball and make the plays," Washington said.

Choo has started two straight games in left field after two at designated hitter while dealing with his sore left ankle. He could also be a candidate for DH on Thursday.

"I have a couple of guys I'm thinking about," Washington said. "I'll sit down and decide on something."

Worth noting
• The Rangers are going for their seventh straight win in day games.

• They have three of the top 12 hitters in the AL in day games this season. Alex Rios is hitting .358, Beltre is hitting .357 and Choo is hitting .340.

• Rios extended his hitting streak to 11 games on Wednesday night.

• Deduno reached 100-plus pitches in 15 of his first 28 career starts, but has not hit the century mark in his last nine.

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