There have been five shutouts pitched in the International League this season, and Rochester right-hander Yohan Pino has two of them, despite making only three starts.
The 29-year-old journeyman has jumped between starting and relieving for the Red Wings but may have earned himself a few more starts by going the distance in a 2-0 win over the Louisville Bats on Saturday afternoon.
Pino (5-0) struck out four and limited Louisville to three hits without walking a batter. He needed 93 pitches, including 70 strikes, throwing first-pitch strikes to 25 of 29 batters.
"It's all about getting strike one," Rochester pitching coach Marty Mason said. "He did that mostly with the fastball today. He mixed a few off-speed pitches in there, but mostly, out of those 29 first pitches, probably 25 of them were fastballs. It was all about attacking the zone."
Pino blew through the Bats lineup without allowing a baserunner over the first four innings. He allowed a pair of singles in the fifth, but Thomas Neal was caught in a two-out rundown between third and home to end the threat. Pino worked cleanly through the sixth and seventh, pitched around a leadoff double in the eighth, then recorded three groundouts in the ninth to complete the gem.
The Venezuela native entered the season with three shutouts during a nine-year career that began in the Twins system but also included stops with affiliates of the Indians, Blue Jays and Reds. He's never appeared in the Major Leagues but is knocking on the door with a 0.84 ERA in seven Triple-A appearances, including a 0.45 ERA in his three starts.
Pino's been asked to pitch as a starter and reliever based on team need, logging a pair of relief outings early in the season before getting to start on April 12 and April 17 -- both doubleheaders. In the latter outing, he blanked Pawtucket for a seven-inning complete game, scattering two hits and three walks while striking out four.
The veteran right-hander returned to the 'pen for two more outings, fanning six over 3 2/3 scoreless frames against Charlotte on April 27 before getting the start on Saturday.
"I think it's just his mental approach to the game," Mason said of Pino's ability to alternate roles effectively. "He's a guy that is going to approach every day like it's his last.
"It's a credit to him and his mental toughness. He's been around the game a while. He has experience. Hopefully, he'll get a chance to go to the next level."
In the meantime, Pino will continue to plug holes and serve as a leader on a Red Wings staff that includes Twins No. 3 prospect Alex Meyer and No. 12 prospect Trevor May. Pino played a direct role in Meyer's development by showing him a new changeup grip earlier this season, and Mason said he's also influenced the pair with his performance on the mound.
"We always say, 'The mentors are your peers,'" Mason said. "When Pino does stuff like he's been doing, guys like Meyer and May, they pay attention. That's what we preach in our organization: Attack the zone, get ahead, first-pitch strikes, keep the ball on the ground.
"Certainly, when a guy like Pino does that, it can get to be a little contagious. Hopefully, the kids are paying attention."