As well as Eduardo Escobar has hit for the D-backs since Minnesota traded him on July 27, it's fair to say the Twins are happy with the return.
Jhoan Duran, one of three players the Twins got for Escobar, gave up one hit and recorded a career-high 10 strikeouts over 6 2/3 scoreless innings Friday as Class A Cedar Rapids defeated Kane County, 3-1, at Perfect Game Field.
Video: Kernels' Duran records 10th strikeout
The right-hander has pitched five games in the Twins organization and has not allowed more than five hits in any of them. Over 32 innings, he's given up 17 hits and seven walks while striking out 41.
"He's been throwing strikes, and I know early in the year he had troubles getting it over and he didn't get out of a couple of innings basically because he wasn't throwing it over," Kernels manager Toby Gardenhire said. "That's just a young pitcher learning how to pitch.
"He's been throwing strikes since he got with us. He's got a really nice power sinker. The bottom kind of drops out of it and it's pretty impressive to watch. He's done a heck of a job since he got with us."
Gameday box score
Duran (7-5) has been solid since his first start in the organization. On July 30, three days after coming over with outfielders Ernie De La Trinidad and Gabriel Maciel for Escobar, he tossed seven hitless innings to lead Cedar Rapids to an 8-0 blanking of Quad Cities.
"We haven't really changed anything he's done," Gardenhire said. "The coaches here, they studied all the stuff he's been working on and just talked to him about a lot of things he's been doing. The pitching staff does a pretty good job of working with guys, trying to improve the things they do well, and that's the big thing with him.
"He's got this power sinker that a lot of guys don't have and he can run the ball up there really hard. Just a matter of figuring out the best way for him to use those pitches, and our guys have been helping him do that and he's done a heck of a job."
On Friday, Duran wasn't quite as sharp as he allowed baserunners in each of the first two innings. But after walking Yan Sanchez to start the second, he struck out the next four Cougars and retired 13 in a row overall until walking Jose Caballero with one out in the sixth.
The native of the Dominican Republic got the next four before a two-out walk to Ryan Grotjohn ended his night after 97 pitches, his second-highest total this season. He threw 98 in his previous outing on Saturday.
"The first couple of starts I saw him he was using the power sinker and that keeps them off his fastball, because he throws a four-seam fastball and he can run it up, 96-97 mph," Gardenhire said. "So when he sinks it down at 92, 93, that's enough change of speed that he can get by with a lot. But lately we've been talking to him about throwing the off-speed pitch as well as the slider, because it's a wipeout slider. It's just a matter of him getting command of it. He's did a really good job of throwing it. Tonight, there were a couple of times when he threw it and it went to the backstop or he missed his spot, but they stuck with it. The changeup was the same way, and that's the big thing with him. He has to learn to use those pitches, so you just want him to keep going."
The Kernels got on the board quickly as Michael Helman off left-hander Franklyn Soriano (1-3) with one out in the first. It was the only run he gave up in six innings.
Cedar Rapids extended its lead in the seventh against reliever Rafael Pujols. Ben Rodriguez walked and moved to second on Trey Cabbage's bunt single. Ariel Montesino tried to sacrifice, but an error by first baseman Yoel Yanqui loaded the bases. After a flyout, Michael Davis singled to right to score Rodriguez and Cabbage.
Kane County got its lone run in the eighth against Johan Quezada. Jose Herrera singled and Tra Holmes followed with a double to left. With Caballero batting, Herrera trotted home on a balk. Quezada got the final six outs for his first save.
But Duran was the focus. He signed with the D-backs for $65,000 in December 2014 and Arizona took it slow with the projectable righty. He didn't get to the United States until 2016 and didn't reach full-season ball until June 2017.
But the Twins coveted the 20-year-old for a mid-90s fastball and his ability to spin a curve. Scouts say his fastball has touched 98 mph and features heavy sink, which leads to a lot of ground-ball outs. His changeup, a work in progress, flashes above-average at times.
"He's got strikeout stuff," Gardenhire said. "The slider, when he can throw that for strikes, and then he's got the other stuff -- I think he hit 100 mph, 98-99-100 or something like that. Anytime you throw it that hard, you can sink the ball off of that and throw off-speed pitches off of that, you're pretty tough to hit.
"The reason he got traded was there's a lot of people who are really high on him, both in the Twins organizaton and the Diamondbacks organization. Those guys really liked him, too and that's why he was valued so high over there. Maybe that was a confidence-boost for him, that maybe he's not just another guy but somebody that a lot of people have a high value on. He's been very confident for us."