La Velle E. Neal III
See more of the story

FORT MYERS, Fla. — According to information obtained from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the state officially has 11,842 lakes. Yes, that means the Land of 10,000 Lakes slogan is inaccurate, but we Minnesotans don't like to be pretentious, remember?

Add up all the lakes, and they still would fall short of the size, power and beauty of the Pacific Ocean. One advantage that body of water has is its nice waves to surf.

Joe Ryan, the Bay Area product, former prep water polo player and current Twins righthander, knows this all too well. He has surfed up and down the California coast, catching waves at the popular Ocean Beach in San Francisco; El Porto in Manhattan Beach, Ca., where the waves are consistent; Fort Cronkhite/Rodeo Beach, where the waves aren't as reliable; and County Line beach, which borders Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

When he wasn't perfecting his pitches at Driveline Baseball in Seattle or vacationing in Mexico City, Ryan spent a chunk of his offseason on a board, paddling to give his shoulders a vigorous workout then catching some small waves.

Ryan isn't in pursuit of The Big One. Anything up to a 12-foot wave suits him fine.

"The peace of being able to go out there and sit in the water and relax," Ryan said. "No phones. No distractions. Just being able to spend a couple hours out there and relax and enjoy things."

Personally, I would prefer to run into a walleye than a shark seven days a week. As it turns out, Ryan takes Minnesota's lakes over the ocean, too.

"I grew up fishing a lot," said Ryan, who was born in San Francisco. "I haven't been fishing as much lately. I've got to get out there in Minnesota."

That shouldn't be a problem as long as he's with the Twins. And there is no reason why he wouldn't be.

Ryan was 13-8 with a 3.55 ERA last season, his first full season with the Twins. That included putting up a 1.09 ERA over his final four starts — including 7 2/3 scoreless innings at Cleveland as the Twins tried to stay in the playoff picture.

He's entertaining to watch — the way he attacks hitters with a fastball that rarely touches the mid-90 mph range. But it will be how he changes speeds and implements a sharpened slider that will determine how much better he will be.

That's where Driveline comes in. More pitchers are visiting the data-driven performance center to get their most of their abilities, and Ryan was one of a few Twins pitchers to explore ways to improve.

"I'm really happy with all of my pitches," Ryan said.

Since debuting during the 2021 season, Ryan is 15-9 with a 3.65 ERA. He's firmly in the middle of a deeper Twins starting rotation. If you are paying attention to the calendar, the rotation is set up for Ryan to begin the season as the No. 3 starter, barring late shuffling. Ryan actually is tied with Kenta Maeda for most starts as a current Twins pitcher, with 32 since he was called up.

In Wednesday's 11-0 win over Boston at JetBlue in Fort Myers, Fla., he displayed a good slider and split-fingered pitch while holding the Red Sox to two hits over five scoreless innings. He had five strikeouts, including striking out the side in the fourth inning, using that 93 mph fastball that hitters can't catch up to.

He's already a staple of the rotation and is having a good spring training. Pitching like this will keep Ryan in a Twins uniform, so he has plenty of time to explore or fish in Minnesota's 11,842 lakes.

Just don't plan for big waves.

"I'd rather have the lakes, if I was playing as long as I hope to in Minnesota," he said. "Then getting a boat or something, and you could do wake surfing.

"Or I'll try to get [Byron] Buxton or [Carlos] Correa to buy one."