SAN FRANCISCO -- After seeing his pitcher issue two walks and throw a wild pitch, manager Tony Pena figured he had seen enough.
His thinking wasn't unjustified. The Dominicans were up by a slim two-run margin, Angel Pagan was on deck and Pena, sensing he had gotten enough out of Samuel Deduno and not wanting to push his starting pitcher in such wet, rainy conditions, felt comfortable turning to a more veteran member of his pitching staff, 14-year Major League veteran Octavio Dotel.
Pena made the "I'm going to lift my pitcher" stroll to the mound, but then the unexpected happened: Deduno convinced his manager to leave him in the game.
"He said, 'Please don't take me out of the game,'" Pena recalled. "'I want this guy.'" I said, 'You want it? You got it.' That's the one thing -- I'm never going to take anything away from them, and he did his job."
Deduno's confidence in that moment shouldn't be all that shocking, considering he had pretty much mastered the art of escaping difficult moments throughout the World Baseball Classic. In this instance, he logged his 17th strikeout -- second highest by any single pitcher in the tournament -- by fanning Pagan to end the inning.
Deduno walked off the mound knowing he was one of the Dominican Republic's biggest contributors throughout its run to the championship game, and, as it later accomplished with a 3-0 win over Puerto Rico, the title.
"If [Pagan] would have gotten a hit, I would have kicked [Deduno] in the rear end," Pena joked. "Then I would have kicked myself."
Deduno isn't as recognizable as some of his teammates, and until now, he lacked star power compared to the likes of Robinson Cano and Jose Reyes. But that all changed with one game in the Classic. Deduno surely made his presence known, and he proved each outing was no fluke simply by matching or topping his prior performance every time out.
In the Dominicans' win over Spain, Deduno tossed four scoreless innings with five strikeouts. In his second Classic start, against the United States, he allowed one run on five hits with seven strikeouts but did not factor in the decision.
Deduno pitched five stellar innings in the championship game, yielding two hits and three walks while striking out five.
"He pitched three games for us, and three successful games," Pena said. "The job he has done, he has been unbelievable. Today, he could have gone 95 pitches, easy."
But Pena stuck with his vow to win this thing on the strength of the bullpen.
"We have the horses," Pena said. "Since I said earlier, when we started the WBC, our bullpen was the root. We only played for five innings with the starting pitcher, and after that, I would turn the game over to them. And that's exactly what we did. But Samuel did a great job for us, a great job."
Not much was known about the 29-year-old Deduno outside of Minnesota prior to this tournament, except that he split time between the Twins and their Triple-A club in Rochester last season. For Minnesota, he was 6-5 with a 4.44 ERA over a career-high 15 starts. The 2013 season will mark his third in the big leagues.
Thanks to the World Baseball Classic, we now know a few more things about Deduno. For one, he's is undeterred by less than ideal conditions. He proved so by pitching off a soppy mound and peering through drizzly conditions for most of his outing and appearing to be oblivious to the elements.
"It was a little cold," Pena said. "He was fighting [through] it, because he was starting to feel like he couldn't get a grip on the ball well."
We also know that even when Deduno loses control a little, he can still make the big pitch. He showed this by ending three of his five frames with strikeouts.
The performance earned Deduno Player of the Game honors, a distinction that may have been slightly overlooked by the bigger story of the Dominican running the table for the first time in World Baseball Classic history. The Dominicans posted a perfect 8-0 record.
"This is the third Classic," Reyes said. "Thank God we're finally able to accomplish what everyone wanted and expected of the DR, which was a trophy as champions. We did it all together. Do you understand? We did this all together."