Berrios brushes off nerves in first spring audition

Twins' top pitching prospect battles command over 1 1/3 innings

Berrios brushes off nerves in first spring audition

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Twins top pitching prospect Jose Berrios admitted he was a bit too excited during his Grapefruit League debut in Minnesota's 13-2 win over the Orioles on Saturday at Hammond Stadium.

Berrios, ranked as the No. 19 overall prospect by MLBPipeline.com, said he was rushing his delivery and couldn't quite locate his changeup, leading to three walks. But he still tossed 1 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing one hit, and vowed to be better next time out.

Berrios ranked No. 2 on Top 30 Prospects

"I felt a little too excited, but I felt strong," Berrios said. "My fastball was good, so I'll work with that. Sometimes I was just a little too rushed and the pitches got away. Next time, I'll be great."

It's hard to blame Berrios, 21, for wanting to make an impression, as he's undoubtedly the club's top pitching prospect and is competing for a spot in the rotation with veterans Ricky Nolasco and Tommy Milone as well as Trevor May.

The Twins want to get a long look at Berrios this spring after coming off an excellent year in the Minors, posting a combined 2.87 ERA between Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Rochester. His 175 strikeouts also led all Minor League pitchers, but he wasn't called up late last year, with the Twins opting to protect his arm after he threw a career-high 166 1/3 innings.

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"I'm sure he's trying to make an impression," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "He handled not being called up really well. He knew we were looking out for his best interests. But he'll be back out there when his turn rolls around again. The first time through we're just seeing how guys are doing and that they're healthy."

Berrios, who hit as high as 95 mph on the radar gun on Saturday, is certainly healthy, as his offseason workouts have become must-watch viewing for his fans on Twitter and Facebook. He trained six days a week in his native Puerto Rico this offseason, taking off just two weeks after the season, and said he enjoys being able to show what he's up to, such as workouts in which he runs on the beach with a parachute being deployed behind him.

"I put it on there because I want people to see me and enjoy what I do in the offseason," Berrios said. "It's great. Everybody knows what I do."

His training routine is toned down a bit in Fort Myers, but he's latched onto veteran right-hander Ervin Santana for advice, as they've become throwing partners this spring. Santana, an 11-year veteran from the Dominican Republic, said he believes Berrios is ready for the big leagues now.

"He's a good pitcher who knows how to pitch," Santana said. "Sometimes he doesn't finish his [curveball]. But he will get it. But he's ready."

Twins general manager Terry Ryan said the Twins still want to see a few more improvements from Berrios before he makes his Major League debut, and pinpointed Berrios' command as something he needs to continue to work on.

"Probably location more than anything else, but it's not so much control because he does throw strikes for the most part," Ryan said. "Now it's just about commanding the zone a little bit. But there's not much that you're going to hear from my mouth that's not positive about last year. He had a very good, solid year from basically start to finish."

Berrios is hoping for similar success this season, but at the Major League level, and he's doing his best not to put any extra pressure on himself this spring.

"I just have to compete," Berrios said. "I just have to do my job and prepare myself and my body. And just be me. There's no pressure because I'm the Minor League guy. I have nothing to lose."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.