Jose Berríos welcomes his changes, and coming out of Spring Training 2021, the Minnesota Twins are enthusiastic about him and his new approach to pitching. They believe the fine-tuning he made will have a positive influence on his command and velocity.
Hard to Figure Out
Berríos is a difficult pitcher to figure out! In his four years with the Twins, he has shown flashes of a dominating pitcher but he has also shown stretches of inconsistency. His durability seems to fall off as they get later into the season.
One start, he is dominating and looks like the ace of the staff. His fastball stays around the middle of the strike zone and his curveball, what hitters call “absurd,” gets him several swings and misses.
Then he goes through odd stretches that make you wonder if he is really an MLB pitcher. His walk rate goes up, which increases his pitch count. He struggles to put hitters away, even when he has two strikes on them, also leading to high a pitch count.
In the Twins last full season (2019), Berríos had his usual late-summer stretch of inconsistency. From April until the second week of July, he carried a 2.80 ERA. Then from late July until the end of the season, his ERA went up a full run. In fact, his final 10 starts that ERA was at 5.83. His velocity also decreased from an average of 94.5 mph down to 93.5 mph.
Changed his Mechanics
Last September, pitching coach Wes Johnson changed Berríos’ mechanics. Part of that was moving him more to the third base side of the rubber. They also looked at prioritizing his best pitches.
Then in spring training, they worked on his technique, form, and mechanics. The goal was to get his delivery in more of a straight line to home plate, with the objective of providing more speed and consistency on his pitches, especially his fastball.
The Work Showed
In his first start of the 2021 season (April 3), all the work and fine-tuning showed. Working with an overpowering fastball and a wicked curve, Berríos delivered six no-hit innings on 84 pitches and 12 strikeouts.
Berríos and Manager Rocco Baldelli were obviously ecstatic about what he did. His fastball was consistently at 95 mph. His curveball showed several swings and misses. Even his teammates mentioned he looked well organized and confident on the mound. He also showed no signs of fatigue.
Five days later, he followed that start by striking out eight in 5 2/3 innings, getting his second win.
Getting used to it
Berríos welcomed the changes and did not need last Saturday’s pitching performance to feel any more confident. The mechanical adjustments he made do not appear to be difficult for him to incorporate in his pitching style. For him it’s just a matter of getting used to the changes in his pitching routine.
He has always shown to be mentally tough and is always looking to improve. His teammates say he is a driven to be the best he can be player. That attitude seems to be working.
If Jose Berríos welcomes the changes, a great set-up for the Twins is to have Berríos pitching at his best all season long. If Berríos can keep the hitters off-balance, gets better at putting them away quickly after getting ahead in the count, and keeps his composure, he can be a pitcher the Twins can rely down the stretch. That could lead to a scenario where the Twins will have a better and deeper starting rotation than expected.
The Twins and Berríos are banking on the changes he’s made to bring the needed consistency to his entire season. If Berríos continues the season pitching as he has to start the season, this team will be a serious contender for their third consecutive AL Central title.
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