SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO – The moment couldn’t be any bigger for Jose Berrios.
He’s set to take the mound Wednesday at historic Hiram Bithorn Stadium, where he estimated about 150 of his friends and family will be in the stands. Actually, a majority of the 19,000 in attendance will have their eyes on every move made by the Twins 24-year-old righthander from Bayamon.
He will pitch Wednesday after his team did all it could — while absorbing four postponements at Target Field — to ensure Berrios stayed in place to have this moment. Lance Lynn will go 10 days between starts in order for Berrios to take the ball.
The Twins also are facing the team they are trying to dethrone in the American League Central Division, the Cleveland Indians.
“The biggest night for me in my baseball career, so far,” Berrios said.
A big moment, indeed, but Berrios and the Twins believe he might be the best man to handle pitching in a nationally televised game near his home against a division rival.
Berrios knows fans will be singing, dancing, cheering and creating a carnivallike atmosphere, something unfamiliar to many of his teammates.
“This is a big deal,” said outfielder Eddie Rosario, who was born in Guayama.
Berrios agreed.“We have played in front of big crowds and they were not all Puerto Rican,” he said. “So this 19,000 will count as 50,000.”
His battles against Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor are highly anticipated. Berrios once played against Lindor when he was 8 years old, but he wasn’t a pitcher at the time. Lindor, hugely popular on the island, is 3-for-9 with a double against Berrios in the majors. Overall, Berrios is 2-2 with a 5.13 ERA in four career starts against the Indians, but he held them to one run over 7 ⅔ innings in a victory last May 13.
Berrios enters the game throwing as well as he ever has since making his debut in 2016. Berrios’ curveball looks sharper than ever, and his command of it has improved. And opponents are batting only .220 against it.
“I don’t think we have really begun to see just how dominant he can be,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “He’s still learning. He’s got great work ethic. And it has been fun to see him get off to a good start.”
Berrios was asked in Spanish if he has “arrived,” as a pitcher. He responded with the same confidence he has shown throughout his young career.
“If I say no, I would be lying,” he said. “That’s what I prepared for. That’s what I’m here for. I’m very happy about the way I’ve been performing, and I’m satisfied. But I have a long way to go.
“I am just getting ready to be a high-caliber pitcher.”