We don’t yet know who the fifth starter for the Twins will be when the season opens, but we know who it won’t be: Jose Berrios.
Berrios, who has been gone most of the last month pitching for team Puerto Rico in the WBC, only returned to Twins camp yesterday afternoon (though he already had his blonde hair dyed back to brown). He told the Pioneer Press’s Mike Berardino then that he intended on competing for the fifth starting spot. “That’s why I’m here,” he said. “I don’t want to lose anything. So I keep competing and do my job and see what they want to do.”
Well, he didn’t get to compete very long, because the Twins optioned Berrios to Triple-A Rochester this morning. He’ll start for the Red Wings in a minor league spring training game next Wednesday.
The biggest concern the Twins had was getting Berrios stretched out and his pitch count up before the season starts, and they felt he could better do that in minor league camp. Considering there is barely a week of spring training left, the team is probably right.
Berrios discussed the move with reporters, as caught on the video below by Mike Berardino:
So though Berrios’s participation in the WBC, especially given Puerto Rico’s deep run in the tournament, probably cost Berrios an opportunity to start the year in the majors, he doesn’t regret doing it. “It’s not everyday you get to play for Puerto Rico,” he said.
Don’t feel bad for Berrios or the Twins—it’s not a matter of if Berrios will be called back up to the big leagues this season, just a matter of when.
What does this mean for the fifth rotation spot?
Thought the Twins are apparently attempting to stretch out Rule 5 draft pick Justin Haley and non-roster invitee Nick Tepesch for potential starting roles, it seems realistically the race for the fifth starting spot is now between Tyler Duffey and Adalberto Mejia.
Interestingly enough, both Duffey and Mejia started in two different minor league games against the Red Sox this morning. Duffey faced the Red Sox Double-A team, giving up four hits, a walk, and an unearned run over six innings. Mejia faced the Red Sox Triple-A team, and I don’t have his exact numbers, but he apparently struggled.
Back fields usually tough assignment for MLB arms. Kids come out hacking. Mejia struggled, btw. https://t.co/T0uYxlVVCw— Mike Berardino (@MikeBerardino) March 25, 2017
Both Duffey and Mejia looked pretty strong in their last outings against the Blue Jays. For what it’s worth, Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com reported two days ago that Mejia had emerged as the slight favorite over Duffey—but the competition’s not over yet.