FORT MYERS, Fla. – Jose Berrios knew this might happen, knew he might be sacrificing his shot at the Twins rotation in order to represent Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic.
“If I had to do it again, I would,” he said Saturday, shortly after learning that his reduced workload in the WBC — he faced hitters only twice in 18 days — had indeed convinced the Twins not to rush him into major league games. Berrios was sent to Class AAA Rochester on Saturday, mostly out of a sense of caution.
“To try to rush a buildup here in the last seven to 10 days, to try to get him ready to be in that spot, didn’t make a lot of sense to me,” manager Paul Molitor said of the Twins’ top pitching prospect. “He needs to not feel pressure to try to get ready for major league games too quickly.”
Berrios said he understood when he committed to play for Puerto Rico that it might complicate his chances of making the team, but he said he has no regrets.
“Playing for Puerto Rico is an honor and makes me proud,” he said. “[The Twins] are my team, this is who drafted me and this is who I’m going to make it with. But you don’t get to play for Puerto Rico every year, and I understood that it might hurt my chances to make this team. But I wouldn’t change that.”
Down to two
With Berrios out of the competition, the Twins will decide whether their fifth starter will be righthander Tyler Duffey or lefty Adalberto Mejia in the next day or two, Molitor said. Both tried to make a closing argument by pitching to Red Sox minor leaguers Saturday, but Duffey likely fared better.
Duffey gave up only an unearned run in six innings against Class AA Portland, giving up five hits while striking out 10.
“I felt really good. I got some good popups on changeups,” Duffey said. “I got a lot of [bad] swings on the changeup, out in front.”
While Duffey was cruising, Mejia, was having more difficulty on an adjacent field, giving up six runs in six innings, but also striking out six, against Class AAA Pawtucket.
But the decision isn’t as obvious as it seemed, Molitor said. Mejia was victimized by some poor defense behind him, and “I don’t want to put too much stock in what happened today,” he said. “We’re going to talk about their body of work. … There wasn’t a separator today for me.”
Mejia has been the more consistent pitcher this spring, posting a 1.88 ERA in six games against major leaguers this spring, while Duffey has a 3.86 in five appearances.
Kennys Vargas was on crutches Saturday after fouling a ball off his foot the night before. They’re just a precaution, and X-rays found no break, but Molitor said the big first baseman will be off his feet for at least a few days.
The timing isn’t good for Vargas, with cuts looming. “It might have a bearing,” Molitor said. Vargas needs at-bats, and “obviously if he doesn’t play for a week, it’s going to have an impact.”
The Twins face old foe Chris Sale and the Red Sox at Hammond Stadium, going against Kyle Gibson.