FORT MYERS, FLA. – Jose Berrios expects big things from himself and his team after the Twins’ 101-win season in 2019. And he has been preparing for such a season in camp.
“The most important goal for me right now is create chemistry and habits like a championship team,” he said. “So that’s what I have been doing in spring training. We start getting that feeling. Everyone knows that’s the goal. That’s a big goal that means a lot for us, everyone in that clubhouse.”
The righthander will be the tone-setter for their ambitious season, as he was named the Opening Day starter on Wednesday after going 4⅓ innings vs. Atlanta in a 3-2 loss.
It will be Berrios’ second consecutive Opening Day assignment. Last year, he shut out Cleveland for 7⅔ innings on March 28 as the Twins opened with a 2-0 victory.
“I can’t speak for other people, but for myself, that’s one of my goals, to make that Opening Day [start] again,” he said. “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 pitched a 1-2-3 first inning Wednesday, hitting 96 miles per hour on the radar gun with his fastball while showing off a different version of his breaking ball, one that breaks straight down. He will mix it in with a different curve that will have some horizontal movement.
But the key to his success last year was increased use of his changeup, and he said that his pitch selection won’t be much different from a year ago. Berrios was sharp until the fourth inning, when he gave up a two-run homer to Peter O’Brien, then gave up another run in the fifth before leaving the game.
With Josh Donaldson facing his 2019 teammates for the first time Wednesday, the new Twins third baseman was surrounded by Atlanta media members before the game, asking him to recount the contract negotiations that caused him to leave the Braves.
Donaldson gave Atlanta a chance to match the Twins’ four-year, $92 million contract, but the team declined. Still, he said of his one season with the Braves, “if I could describe it in one word, it’d be ‘grateful.’ ”
And he’s grateful to his new team, too.
“I tried to take the emotion out of it and see what’s best. I felt, honestly, peace of mind with the decision, knowing we were very thorough and understanding it,” Donaldson said. “Ultimately, we’re happy with that decision.”
Byron Buxton woke up with soreness in his left shoulder, a day after facing full-speed live pitching for the first time since last August. But he didn’t mind.
“Just normal,” Buxton said of his shoulder’s condition, after taking a round of standard batting practice against a Twins coach. “Nothing you wouldn’t expect.”
That’s good news for the Twins center fielder, who underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in September. Buxton will work out Thursday but not hit, manager Rocco Baldelli said, then face live pitching again on Friday.
“Buck had a good day today. We’re going to get him back out there, take some more swings, see how that feels. But he’s progressing nicely,” Baldelli said.
The Twins still hope he can appear in a game sometime next week, with his status still unknown for the start of the season.
“He’s going to be ready to go very soon,” Baldelli said. “That makes everybody happy and pretty excited.”
The Twins play a night game at Hammond Stadium televised on FSN Plus, with the home team starting Jhoulys Chacin vs. Baltimore’s Alex Cobb.
La VELLE E. NEAL III