Berrios continues bid for rotation job

Top pitching prospect tosses three scoreless innings

Berrios continues bid for rotation job

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Top pitching prospect Jose Berrios is doing his best to make the competition for the fifth spot in the rotation as interesting as possible.

Berrios, ranked as the No. 19 overall prospect by MLBPipeline.com, was impressive on Thursday, tossing three scoreless innings in an 8-2 win over the Red Sox at JetBlue Park. The right-hander, who is competing with Ricky Nolasco, Tommy Milone and Trevor May for the final rotation spot, allowed one hit on an infield single and struck out two.

"He's trying to state his case," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "He's only a couple appearances in, but he'd like to be considered. He's going about his business very professionally for a young man."

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Berrios, 21, fared much better than his first time out against the Orioles on Saturday, when he threw 1 1/3 scoreless innings, but walked three and admitted he was overexcited up for his first outing.

"Jose had a better day today," Molitor said. "He was able to slow it down and execute his pitches. He was facing pretty good competition and got through it rather quickly with 10 guys in three innings. He was using his changeup and breaking ball and I saw 95 [mph] a couple times today."

Milone and Nolasco are the two frontrunners as veterans, while May is likely to be in the bullpen. The Twins can also delay Berrios' free agency a year if they wait to call him up in mid-April, but general manager Terry Ryan has maintained that won't be a factor in their decision, pointing to previous examples of calling up top prospects without regard to service time such as Aaron Hicks and Byron Buxton.

Count veteran right-hander Ervin Santana among those who believe Berrios is ready to contribute at the big league level.

"He's got great command, and I think he's ready," said Santana, who made his Major League debut as a 22-year-old with the Angels in 2005. "Every time he goes out there and pitches, you can see the difference. He has a lot of life on his fastball and has good offspeed. He can throw them for a strike, and that's what you're looking for at the big league level."

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.