CLEVELAND – Jake Odorizzi had hoped all the offseason work he did on refining his mechanics and restoring his fastball would pay off with a good season. He never imagined it might lead to an All-Star Game.
“It’s a little hard to get your mind around sometimes. All-Star. Sounds pretty good,” the Twins’ righthander said Monday. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, doing anything but this right now.”
The designation as one of the best pitchers in the league might pay off in November or December as well as July, too. Odorizzi is one of three members of the Twins’ starting rotation, along with Kyle Gibson and Michael Pineda, who can declare free agency after the postseason ends. He’s excited to see what an All-Star pitcher with his track record might bring on the open market — but he’s willing to let the Twins’ decisionmakers, chief baseball officer Derek Falvey and General Manager Thad Levine, talk him out of it, too.
“I’ve talked to Derek and Thad. I’ve told them I really enjoy playing in Minnesota, really like this team,” Odorizzi said. “But there haven’t been [any negotiations]. I can’t offer myself a deal or sign on my own dotted line. We’ll see what happens, but I’ve made it clear to them that I want to be here, and where they take it from there is their business.”
Odorizzi, whose small cut on his fingertip will keep him from playing in the game Tuesday, is earning $9.5 million this year, off a 2018 season which he considers his worst since becoming an established starter in 2013. He devoted himself to fixing that last winter, and obviously found answers, just in time for free agency.
“I’m not one of those people who are superstitious about talking about [contracts] during the season. There’s a business side to it, and if it presents itself, it would be good business,” Odorizzi said. “ But I’m not going to worry about that now. We’re here to keep winning, and I don’t want to take anything away or distract from where we want to be and are trying to be.”
It’s nice being a two-time All-Star, Jose Berrios said Monday, and it’s even better not being the lone Twins representative, as he was last year. Such is the benefit of pitching for a first-place team.
“It makes me really proud to be here, because we’re first in the division. That makes it different,” the Twins’ righthander said. “But it’s on my mind, too. We know we’ve got more work to do in the second half. So we’re really enjoying the moment, but we’re thinking about what we’ve got to do when we get back.”
For a couple of days, though, the Twins’ trio of All-Stars — Berrios, Odorizzi and shortstop Jorge Polanco — get to enjoy the rewards of being recognized by their peers and fans.
“I feel like a young kid, just enjoying everything,” Berrios said. “These are the best players, and it’s an honor just to be around them.”
Berrios threw 13 pitches in last year’s game, allowing a walk to Nolan Arenado in an otherwise uneventful inning. He hasn’t been told yet by AL manager Alex Cora if he will pitch again this year, but “I’m available if they need me.”
Pressly, Hendriks here
Berrios said he was startled to walk into the holding room for the AL stars Monday morning and run into another Twins veteran.
“I said, ‘Hey, I know that guy!’ ” Berrios laughed about bumping into Houston’s Ryan Pressly, who spent six seasons in the Twins’ bullpen until being traded to the Astros last July. “I’m really happy he’s here. He was a great teammate, and I’m glad he’ll be my teammate again tomorrow.”
Pressly isn’t the only former Twins pitcher on the AL roster, either. Liam Hendriks, who spent eight years in the Twins’ system, three of them that included time in Minnesota’s starting rotation, is representing the Athletics. Hendriks has 63 strikeouts in 50 ⅔ innings, plus a 1.24 ERA — basically comparable to Pressly’s 1.36 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 39 ⅔ innings.
Given that the Twins have used 17 relievers already this year, wouldn’t it be nice to see Pressly and Hendriks in the bullpen at Target Field?
“For sure,” Berrios said. “I’m really happy for those guys. But we’ve got some good arms in our bullpen, too.”
Last but not least
Polanco, the first Twin in the starting lineup since Joe Mauer in 2013, will bat ninth for the American League, Cora announced Monday. That’s just a reflection of how loaded he feels his batting order is, Cora said.
“Andy Barkett, [Boston’s] assistant hitting coach, said we can flip-flop the entire lineup and it still looks pretty good,” Cora said.