FORT MYERS, Fla. — With the Twins’ 2020 season scheduled to begin in two weeks, Jose Berrios already has accomplished one of his goals.
Manager Rocco Baldelli announced after Wednesday’s game that Berrios will take the ball on Opening Day for the second straight year.
“This is something that Jose has worked for, that he’s earned and that I think he is very proud of and we’re proud for him,” Baldelli said. “This is something that’s definitely important to a lot of people in the game today. This is an achievement. He’s done this before. He’s going to do this again going forward. I would bet on that happening.”
Berrios, who earned the honor last year, too, likened the excitement of pitching on Opening Day to when a young kid goes to the first day of school. He was able to harness that excitement and convert it into results last year, producing one of his best starts of the season on Opening Day, giving up just two hits in 7 2/3 scoreless innings of the Twins’ 1-0 victory over the Cleveland Indians.
“Obviously every starter wants to be in that position. Thanks to God that I have the opportunity,” Berrios said Wednesday. “I can’t speak for other people, but for myself, that’s one of my goals, to make the Opening Day (start) again. I respect my teammates. I respect the other starting pitchers. I can tell that we have a really good group, so it’s a big opportunity for me to get a chance to pitch the first game.”
Berrios, who started in the Twins’ 3-2 exhibition loss to Atlanta on Wednesday, gave up three runs on six hits in 4 1/3 innings pitched while striking out five batters. He was stretched out to more than 70 pitches.
The 25-year-old was an all-star for the second straight time last year, finishing with a 3.68 earned-run average. He also topped 200 innings in a season for the first time in his career.
Berrios hit a speed bump in the second half of the season, but has been working on new techniques to increase his stamina and keep him fresh throughout the entire season.
“I think this year’s going to be better than the year before because, obviously, I want that and I’ve been preparing myself to do that,” Berrios said.
Baldelli said Byron Buxton, who took live batting practice for the first time Tuesday after season-ending shoulder surgery last year, “had a good day” on Wednesday.
Though Buxton said Tuesday he thought the plan was for him to take live batting practice again on Thursday, the Twins said Buxton would work out on Thursday but had a scheduled off day from hitting.
“He’s progressing nicely,” Baldelli said. “Yesterday was a really good day for him.”
Baldelli said it would be “hard to say right now” whether Buxton would be ready to play on Opening Day on March 26, but team officials “couldn’t be happier with his progress.”
“He’s been going in the right direction from Day One, and I think he’s going to be ready to go very soon,” Baldelli said. “That makes everybody happy and pretty excited.”
Prospect Trevor Larnach played in the outfield for the first time all spring in Wednesday’s game. Larnach had been serving as the team’s designated hitter after dealing with a sore right shoulder that he said was caused by a “funky throwing motion” last year.