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FORT MYERS, FLA. — Pablo López remembers looking at his phone last month, seeing the call was from Jeff Brigham and wondering, "What could he possibly want?"

The Twins believe they'll be glad later this summer that López decided to answer it.

Brigham, a 32-year-old righthanded reliever from the Seattle suburbs, was López's roommate in 2017 while both pitched for the Marlins' High-A team in Jupiter, Fla., then shared an apartment with him during spring training with the Marlins in 2020 and 2021. That's where López learned that Brigham — "probably the worst texter/phone guy in the world," he said with a smile — isn't so good at connecting electronically with friends. "So I was pretty surprised when he called," López said. "He never calls."

He had good reason to, though. Brigham, working his way back from a nerve injury in his pitching arm that put his career on hold for nearly two years, had been nontendered after a disappointing season with the Mets. He was sorting out a handful of offers from teams willing to give him a spring training tryout, and the Twins were one of them.

"He wanted to hear from me what the Twins offer, how they work. Just all the little things," López said. "I basically just told him my experience — from the moment I showed up at camp, how everyone treated me, welcomed me, made me feel a part of the team right away. And then we started getting into the specifics of pitching and what they did for me."

That was the important part because Brigham, once a fourth-round pick of the Dodgers, is trying to reinvent himself, to find ways to get hitters out now that the injury has sapped his velocity. When Brigham earned a spot in the Marlins bullpen in 2019, he came armed with a fastball that could reach 99 mph and averaged 96.6.

Last year with the Mets, the average was only 93.5 mph.

"When I first met him, he was blowing batters away with his fastball," López said. "Now he's not as overpowering as he was, but he's still got a little giddy to his fastball. But he's developing better secondary pitches. He's still got stuff to get guys out, you can see it."

That's what the Twins told him, too. At the direction of President of Baseball Operations Derek Falvey, the Twins' pitching analytics experts made a presentation that "just impressed me so much," Brigham said. "They told me what I've been doing the last few years, what they thought I did well and what I could do better and how they would help me do it. It was very specific. I was just like, 'Wow.' "

Especially when López detailed how the Twins turned his slider into a sweeper that hitters couldn't reach, a pitch that helped make López an All-Star.

"They not only told me how I could improve, they were proactive in helping me with those things," López said. "It's about how the team can help you develop, to find the next gear, to find the best version of Jeff Brigham. They did it for me."

Twins players were back running sprints on Monday as spring training headed back outdoors in Fort Myers, Fla.
Twins players were back running sprints on Monday as spring training headed back outdoors in Fort Myers, Fla.

Jerry Holt

They did it for Brock Stewart last year, too, another 32-year-old righthander who opened his Twins career with 14 scoreless innings. Stewart's breakthrough season was derailed by elbow soreness, but he's a good example, Falvey said, of how technology can help players make big improvements.

"You see some of these young pitchers who have interesting pitches, interesting skills or traits, maybe velo, maybe something with the two-seamer, something with the slider. But the difference between a successful major league pitcher with that talent and a guy who's right on the edge of that is so, so thin," Falvey said. "We've found that if you can find a way to get a little more consistency out of the strike-throwing or a little more consistency out of the slider, whatever you've got that separates you, all of a sudden it turns into something."

That's what Brigham is looking for, especially after that nerve issue kept him out of baseball and in a long rehab stint for most of 2020 and 2021. And it's what he said he's already found.

"They said they could impact my cutter. And they already have. It's been five days, and I'm already throwing better," said Brigham, who has recorded 121 strikeouts in 117 career innings. "It's small things, but I'm seeing an effect. [Vice President of Baseball Operations Strategy and Innovation] Josh Kalk told me that, 'Hey, we didn't spend the most money on the bullpen, but they know how to get guys out.' I'm excited. I'd like to be a part of that."

He's learning better pitch sequencing, too, Brigham said, and believes, despite not having a 40-man spot at the moment, that he could be headed toward making his third different team in three years.

"Pablo was close. He had a lot of talent, and they just added that sweep to his repertoire, and all of a sudden it clicks," he said. "I feel like I am close, too. I want to see if I can take the next step and establish myself as a big leaguer, rather than continuously getting up there and having some success, some failure. I want to develop some consistency. I want to play with a winning squad, and this feels like the place for both."