In May, when it was unclear whether Major League Baseball would hold a 2020 season, Twins pitching coach Wes Johnson estimated it would take a month for his pitching staff to be physically ready to play real games.
On Monday, the Twins wrapped up their summer training camp with a round of batting practice, a half-hour of grounders and fly balls and a five-inning intrasquad game, just 17 days after they started. They may play catch Tuesday in Target Field and Thursday in Chicago, and they’ll face the Cubs in a Wednesday exhibition game, but basically, practice is over for the Twins.
Johnson, shorted by two weeks of the preparation time he wanted, is OK with that.
“It was enough time. Do you wish for more? Absolutely. But it’s a huge testament how these guys came [to Minnesota] in shape,” Johnson said Monday. “They were ready to go, ready to compete. I keep hearing over and over, ‘Man, I don’t want to throw any more bullpens. I’m ready to see hitters.’ ”
Even better, Johnson said, nearly every young pitcher on the staff has used the time to add to his game.
“We’re trying to get Jose [Berrios] to utilize his changeup a little more. He’s done that,” Johnson said. “Where Taylor Rogers is with his breaking ball right now, we’re very happy. He’s thrown a lot of sliders and curveballs [and] we’re starting to get a true separation between those two pitches. I really like what Tyler Duffey is doing with his breaking ball as well. …Yeah, we could be here a long time talking about different [improvements].”
Club and country
Berrios on Friday will become the fourth Puerto Rican pitcher to make more than one Opening Day start, joining ex-Brewer Ricky Bones, former Cubs and White Sox pitcher Jaime Navarro and former Expos and Diamondbacks pitcher Javier Vazquez.
“It makes me feel proud of where I come from. I didn’t see all of them growing up, but I saw Javier Vazquez,” the two-time All-Star said. “I’m just happy I’m representing Puerto Rico this way.”
If history is an indication, he’ll do his homeland proud against the White Sox. This is the third time Berrios has made the Twins’ season-opening roster, and in his previous two debuts, he didn’t allow a run: a complete-game shutout in Baltimore in 2018, and 7⅔ scoreless innings against Cleveland in last year’s opener. He didn’t open the 2017 season in Minneapolis — instead, he pitched six shutout innings for Class AAA Rochester — but when he arrived in the majors in May, he allowed one run over 7⅔ innings in Cleveland.
What’s Berrios’ secret to a fast start?
“I mean, I don’t know. It’s special,” he said. “The only thing I know is that I take that first day with 100 percent readiness and energy.”
• The Twins held a pregame socially distanced team meeting in the Kirby Puckett Atrium to go over all the rules and coronavirus protocols for their road trip. The teams departs Tuesday after a short, optional workout at Target Field.
• Byron Buxton did not take part in the game but was on the field during the workout. “He was able to run. I wouldn’t say he was at full speed, or truly sprinting, but starting to move side to side, back to back,” Baldelli said of the outfielder, who suffered a sprained left foot one week ago. No word yet on whether Buxton will play Friday, but “he’s definitely doing a lot better and gaining a lot of confidence.”
• Baldelli planned to inform his players Monday which ones will travel to Chicago as part of the 30-man roster and three-man taxi squad, and which will remain behind to continue working out in St. Paul. The team must finalize its roster by noon on Opening Day.