FORT MYERS, FLA. — Brock Stewart is happy spring training has started. He can finally get a little rest.

The righthanded reliever, who missed three months of the 2023 season because of a nerve issue in his forearm, made up for his diminished workload by ramping up his offseason schedule.

"I felt so good at the end of the season. I just kept going. I didn't really take much time off at all," Stewart said. "I made sure I got about 12 bullpens in, a couple of live [workouts], so my workload is already built up. Coming in here, it's almost like I need to de-load to get ready."

His reluctance to see 2023 end is understandable. After working for four seasons in the Los Angeles Dodgers' bullpen without much success — his career ERA was 6.05 when the Twins signed him — Stewart then endured three seasons out of the game after requiring a pair of surgeries to eliminate the pain in his pitching elbow.

But equipped with a healthy arm and some new pitches, Stewart dominated hitters as a Twin, putting up 14 scoreless innings before allowing his first run. His fastball velocity averaged 97.2 mph, and hitters swung and missed the pitch 51.1% of the time, the highest rate in the American League. He gave up just two runs in 27⅓ innings for an ERA of 0.65 with 39 strikeouts.

"His stuff is excellent. We're anticipating him being out there and blowing that 98 [mph fastball] by guys, [and] that good cutter that plays against basically everyone," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "That's going to work."

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Brock Stewart career statistics

But work might be the key for Stewart this spring. He will do a little less of it than most relievers because he's already in game shape.

"We're taking things a little slow. I've got a bullpen today and then some live [batting practices]. I should have five or six game outings before the season," Stewart said. "I'm feeling really good. I wish we could start the season."

He hopes to have his first completely healthy season since 2019 and be at his strongest for the postseason. Sort of like the fantasy football team he managed with former teammate Emilio Pagán. The team won the Twins' clubhouse league last fall.

"Me and E.P., we had a really good thing going. We bounced ideas off each other, had a Thad-and-Derek-type relationship" modeled after Twins bosses Thad Levine and Derek Falvey, Stewart said. "We had Matt Stafford at quarterback, and he had big games late in the year. Were loaded at receiver. Loaded. And we fleeced Royce Lewis in a trade, but don't tell him I said that."

A Pac-12 farewell

The Pac-12 baseball season got underway last week, normally a happy event for West Coast residents Trevor Larnach and Jeff Brigham. But it was tinged with gloom this year because it's the final season for a league whose members have won 28 College World Series titles.

"I hate to see it happen," said Larnach, who won a CWS championship with Oregon State in 2018. "I've got great memories of the conference. We won the Pac-12 one year, we won the [national title] another year, and it was a real pride thing. Knowing the history of the conference and those universities, it made it really cool."

"I grew up a die-hard Husky," said Brigham, a suburban Seattle native who pitched for Washington from 2011-14. "Going to USC, you walk in there, it's so [much] history. Same with Arizona State, with all the names like Barry Bonds on the walls. Even UCLA, it's Jackie Robinson Stadium. I loved all that, but I guess they had to chase the money."

While four Pac-12 schools will join the Big Ten next year, four others head to the Big 12 and two more become ACC members, Oregon State is left without a conference affiliation for now.

"That's going to be so weird, but college sports are changing, not much you can do," Larnach said. "Going independent, I guess they'll still play some of those [former Pac-12] schools, just not as often. Too bad."