Pinango—A Triple-A Surprise Wonder

I doubt that anybody including the participants could have predicted with certainty the person who wound up leading Las Vegas in victories this season. For, that matter, there's probably few who could name him even now.

He came into the Dodger organization in a veil of obscurity and may very well leave the same way. Yet, his pitching coach at Vegas,Kenny Howell, vows he has the ability to make the big leagues

. His name is Miguel Pinango who came to the Dodgers as a free agent after the Mets let him walk. Although he'd won 10 games in AA for them, he only made the staff at Inland Empire out of spring training. His record there was 1-3, 4.61, hardly inspiring. When he was promoted all the way to Vegas, it seemed he would be a standby for a brief time, then depart.

Yet, when pressed into service as a starter, he found a niche and, when it was all done, lo! his name led all the rest. He won 10 games while losing seven and had a 4.12 ERA, more than respectable for the environment in which he was employed.

Pinango's out pitch is a changeup, which might explain why scouts are less than enthralled with him. But it's a nasty delivery, the way he uses it for he pitches backwards i e. utilizing his fast ball to set up the change, not the normal procedure at all.

"He's not one-dimensional at all," Howell insists and Pinango agrees. "I'm focusing on beating the hitter on both sides of the plate," is the way he puts it.

So, he moves the ball around, in-out, up, down, throws his heater in the 86-88 range and, then pulls the strong when the hitter gets out on his front foot. Even if it's hit, it's often just a weak grounder.

Pinango is a 24-year-old native of Venezuela who's not overly large at 6-1, 160, another reason for his dismissal by scouts. The Dodgers watched him in winter ball, then signed him.

But he has eight years of pro ball in now and 2007 was his first in AAA. He could have become a free agent again but chose not to, still looking for that big league chance.

Now, though, he can say , he's been a winner in AAA. There's probably still going to be some who aren't convinced.

Believe him. It actually happened.

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