The rotation, led by Berríos, might not suck as much as people think. In the Minnesota Twins’s first series of the season, against Cleveland, the Twins starting pitchers gave up a total of one run combined. It makes you think, especially because the starting rotation was widely seen as the team’s weakness. What if the Twins’ starting rotation isn’t horrible?
Jose Berrios, a 2018 all star, drew the Opening Day start, which was no surprise. He went 7 2/3 innings, striking out 10, and only allowing two hits and one walk, and left to a standing ovation. It wasn’t just the stats, though. It was the confidence gain. Last year, Berrios’s confidence was his biggest issue.
On Opening Day, with a sellout crowd, facing 2-time AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber, it is easy for nerves to get the better of you. No way, Jose (no pun intended).
Especially in the fourth inning, when Leonys Martin hit a leadoff double, he got Jose Ramirez to pop up, struck out Tyler Naquin, pitched around Carlos Santana, and struck out Hanley Ramirez. He probably would have given up at least one, maybe two, runs in the same situation last year. He also seemed to get better as the game went on.
In the end, he outdueled Corey Kluber, and the Twins won in shutout fashion.
In the second game of the series, Jake Odorizzi took the hill. He, too, struck out 10+ batters, striking out 11 in 6 innings, while giving up a hit (a homer) and two walks.
What surprised me most about his outing, though, was the feel he had for his fastball. He used it as a swing-and-miss pitch, as a first-pitch strike, and for many other uses.
Take the first at-bat of the game, with Martin. His first three pitches were the fastball, and after three pitches, Martin was down 1-2 in the count, and Odorizzi put him away with the splitter.
Or, take his third-inning at bat with Jose Ramirez. His first pitch was his splitter, which was outside. Then, he threw three straight fastballs. He fouled the first off, watched the second one go by, and then flew out to Buxton.
He used his fastball most of the time, mixing it with his cutter and splitter. If he can keep that up, he can be a real weapon.
Unfortunately, the bullpen and the lineup didn’t get it done, and we lost 2-1.
In the rubber game, Michael Pineda, coming of Tommy John surgery, was set to start. The plan was to ease him back into baseball, and have Martin Perez, who will later be part of the rotation, take over after 4-5 innings.
Pineda incorporates a four-pitch mix of a four-seam fastball, a slider, a change-up, and sometimes a curve. On Sunday, he used the slider as a swing-and-miss pitch, and it was effective.
He was especially good at using his stuff the right way. He could get a ground ball when he needed it, he could get a pop-up when he needed it, and he got ahead in counts and finished batters off with his slider.
His final line was 4 innings, only one hit, a walk, and 5 strikeouts.
Martin Perez, as planned, filled in the rest of the way. He is a fastball thrower, sometimes getting up to 97 mph. He mixes in a change and a slider.
Perez got in a couple jams, but for the most part was able to get out of them. In the eighth, though, he wasn’t. He gave up a 3-run, bases-clearing double to Carlos Santana.
He features a good pitch mix, and with time and coaching, he could be a key player in the Twins’ rotation.
Kyle Gibson will start on Tuesday, and he has been, and will continue to be this year, be a great piece in the rotation.
The rotation of Berrios, Odorizzi, Pineda, Gibson and Peres might not be half bad. Maybe Derek Falvey and Thad Levine are the boy geniuses we hope they are. And who knows, the Twins are loaded with prospects, they might even trade for another pitcher at the deadline. All I’m saying is, don’t underrate the Twins rotation.