ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. – Twins General Manager Terry Ryan is watching prospects at Class AAA Rochester, evaluating potential September call-ups. And righthander Jose Berrios gave him a lot to think about.
Berrios threw seven shutout innings Wednesday at Syracuse, holding the Chiefs to three hits and a walk while striking out 12.
“He did pitch well,” Ryan said. “All you have to do is look at that line.”
Berrios has become the top pitching prospect in the Twins organization. He is 4-2 with a 2.78 ERA in 10 starts since being promoted to Rochester from Class AA Chattanooga. In 64⅔ innings, he has walked 13 while striking out 73. He has surged in his past two starts, giving up one earned run over 14 innings with one walk and 22 strikeouts.
Want a larger sample? Over his past eight starts, he has posted a 1.83 ERA and has held opponents to a .197 batting average and .316 slugging percentage.
Looks like Berrios. 21, is on a promotion drive by the time major league rosters can expand Tuesday. Ryan has taken notice and has been in contact with manager Paul Molitor as they discuss possible promotions.
A couple things hurt Berrios’ candidacy. One is his innings count. He threw 139⅔ innings last season, and the general rule is that teams don’t want to increase a pitcher’s workload by more than 20 percent. That would put his limit at around 168 innings. He’s at 155⅓ innings now and is on track to make two more starts for Rochester before their season ends Sept. 7.
“That is a factor,” Ryan said. “You have to take it into consideration.”
The other factor is that Berrios has never worked in the bullpen before. That didn’t stop Ryan from considering starter Alex Meyer for the bullpen last year. Then again, there wasn’t anything on the line last year. This year, the Twins have playoff dreams and might not want to put Berrios in an unfamiliar role during high-stakes games.
“Paul and I and are on the same page with this,” Ryan said. “I’m looking for people who can help us.”
Closer Glen Perkins threw in the bullpen before Thursday’s game and said he felt good. Perkins, who just got over a sore neck last week, has been unable to pitch since Sunday because of back spasms.
“It’s been a fun week,” he lamented.
Perkins was tempted to tell Molitor that he was good to pitch Thursday, but he wanted to wait to make sure his back didn’t stiffen up after his bullpen session.
“It’s probably best to wait until [Friday],” Perkins said of his return.
Eddie the Stick
Twins hitting coach Tom Brunansky confirmed he did ask Eduardo Escobar to consider bunting Wednesday, but that was only to get Rays starter Chris Archer off his game if he got rolling. Brunansky loves Escobar’s swing and doesn’t mind him hitting away as long as he keeps his head down and thinks about driving the ball for doubles.
“I don’t want to take anything away from him,” Brunansky said, “That is part of his strength.”
Escobar, after belting two home runs Wednesday and adding another Thursday, mentioned how Brunansky mentioned bunting and said, “I don’t like it, you know,” while laughing. “I like to swing.”
Entering Thursday, he had seven extra-base hits and eight runs scored over his previous seven games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no other shortstop in the league has averaged an extra-base hit a game and one run a game over a seven-game period this season.