It was a rousing debut from a player the Twins are expecting big things from in 2019.
Jose Berrios, now the 24-year old 'ace' on the Twins staff shut down AL Central favorites Cleveland at opening day Thursday at Target Field. Berrios allowed just two hits and one walk in 7 two thirds innings as the Twins won 2-0. The 10 strikeouts set an opening day record for the Twins.
As he exited the game, Berrios received a standing ovation from the soldout Target Field crowd. "It's what I expected of my myself, and a little more I'd say," said Berrios. "Having my family in the stands and all the fans that came out to support us on opening day, it's special. When I came out it was perfect. It felt good."
"Every strikeout for me is special. Every strikeout gives me the chance to help the team," Berrios told WCCO's Cory Hepola during Twins Caravan in January. Then Thursday's win must have been very special indeed.
"Yeah, that was impressive,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “I wish I wasn't sitting here saying that. But not only his velocity on his fastball, but he located, and he located it in enough, hard, then he'd throw a changeup off of that. He really kind of manhandled us today."
Berrios was taken with the 32nd pick in the 2011 draft. A native of Puerto Rico, Berrios became a Twin out of Papa Juan XXIII High School and was off to the Gulf Coast League affiliate. Berrios dominated in the low minors and developed into a high-ceiling prospect by 2015. It was around that time that Berrios started using the offseason winter back home to his advantage, training hard to get his body in shape for the season.
Thursday's opener saw Berrios mix some nasty curveballs with his 4-seam fastball, and also mix in a few very effective changeups. A pitch that he worked hard on again in the offseason. "Amazing. Great. Every year we learn something to be better. That's what I've been doing this past offseason and I'm excited to start this season again," said Berrios.
The Twins definitely need more depth in their pitching staff. Beyond Berrios and Kyle Gibson, it's still an unknown for a team hoping to challege Cleveland all year in the AL Central.
One thing is for sure, they have their first real #1 starter since Johan Santana in Jose Berrios. "I want to be consistent all season to help the team win the games. I prepare myself to throw a lot of innings," said Berrios. "The mentality is to be strong all season. I don't want to be on the DL because I can't help the team from there. We have to work hard and work smart. We eat healthy, rest well and then we work."