Although an injury suffered in mid-June put a damper on Beloit Snappers' starting pitcher Angel Duno’s first half of the season and cost him a spot in the Midwest League All-Star Game, the 22-year-old Venezuelan has rebounded well and made his first appearance in nearly a month on Wednesday night.
Duno made the start at Quad Cities, allowing just a pair of hits in two scoreless innings and striking out two batters. It’s the start of a steady ramping up of Duno’s workload over the next few weeks.
"I feel happy about being back on the mound,” said Duno through interpreter and Beloit catcher Jose Chavez. “My thought process when I took the field was just do what I know how to do, which is throw strikes and get outs. I'm on a progression right now to get my innings back up. I'll be starting, so my next outing will probably be three innings and the one after that will be four."
Duno was one of the Snappers’ best pitchers during the first half of the season, going 5-3 with a 2.28 ERA in 12 games (10 starts). He posted a 44:9 K:BB rate in 67 innings before going down with an injury following his start at Clinton on June 10th.
The setback was an arm-related issue, with Duno claiming it was a biceps inflammation and Snappers manager Fran Riordan calling it shoulder tightness.
Either way, Duno looks ready to become the steady force in the second half that he was in the first.
"I watched a couple of his sim(ulated) games before he came off the DL and he looked pretty sharp,” Riordan said. “(Wednesday) night in the two-inning look, he had a lot of life on his fastball and showed great command with that. He got by two innings just throwing fastball and slider. His slider was sharp and down in the zone. It was very encouraging to see that type of performance coming off the DL."
Dealing with a setback that cost him a spot in the All-Star game was disappointing for Duno, but the right-hander instead focused all of his energy on returning.
"I was just worried about getting healthy,” he said. “I wanted to keep throwing and play in the All-Star game, but I knew it was important to rest up and get healthy.
“Now that I’m back I want to stay at 100 percent, not go back to the disabled list and finish my progression. I want to keep getting hitters out like I did in the first half before I got hurt. I'm happy to be where I'm at, but my goal is not to stay here. I want to keep going up."
Duno certainly has the starter’s arsenal to go places in the Oakland A's farm system. He commands two off-speed pitches that complement his fastball that sits between 88 and 92 miles-per-hour.
"He's a strike thrower and has a very good slider,” Riordan said. “He's got some movement on his fastball and his change-up is developing nicely, as well. We're trying to get a little bit more separation with the velocity between those two pitches. If he can get that, he's going to have three above-average pitches."
Riordan says the organization will be cautious with Duno and that the plan is him to remain a starter for the balance of the season.
"His next outing we'll stretch him out a little bit more, his next outing after that we'll stretch him out a little bit more,” Riordan said. “He was a workhorse before he experienced a little bit of shoulder tightness. We're going to be cautious, but at the same time we're going to build him up in a way to get his innings up."
Wednesday night was a big step in the right direction for Duno, who hopes to put himself in position for an eventual Stockton call-up late in the season or in 2017.