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David Festa struck out 10 batters in a five-inning outing on April 30, matching the highest strikeout total by a Twins pitcher at Class AAA in the last four seasons.

Eleven days later, Festa matched the record again with another 10 strikeouts in an even more dominant performance with six shutout innings.

Festa, a 6-6, 185-pound righthander, is rated as the best pitching prospect in the Twins farm system by Baseball America and he's backed the billing. He owns a 3.18 ERA through nine starts with the St. Paul Saints. He's totaled 52 strikeouts and 19 walks in 34 innings. His strikeout rate (35.6% of plate appearances) ranks third among International League starters.

"I always trusted my stuff and had confidence in it," Festa said. "I'm just executing really well right now. But I can do better."

Festa works quickly on the mound and the extra extension in his delivery from his height makes it look like pitches explode to the plate. His fastball reaches 97 mph. His slider and changeup fool hitters from both sides of the plate.

He even started sprinkling in a curveball, a slower pitch he started developing last year to combat lefthanded hitters.

"The curveball will help me long-term," Festa said. "It's not really a short-term project. [Coaches] remind me that I don't really need it right now, but it's good to work on it because I'm going to have to work on it at some point."

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There are areas Festa needs to improve before he makes his major league debut — he's averaging more than one walk for every two innings, and he needs to pitch deeper into games more consistently — but he provides important AAA starting depth alongside Louie Varland.

The Twins invited Festa to his first big-league camp this year, but he didn't pitch in any spring training games. He dealt with forearm soreness at the end of the 2023 season, and he was shut down for six weeks. It delayed his buildup into spring training, and he was on tight pitch restrictions for his first five starts.

Now that he's fully built up, he's produced two starts lasting at least five innings. Eleven of his 19 walks came in his first 12⅓ innings, which he attributes to fatigue after he was limited to one-inning outings during spring training.

"There were some growing pains, for sure," Festa said. "A little frustrating because coaches would just say, 'Remember you're building up.' For me, when I'm out there, I know it counts. I'm a competitor. I just had to deal with those little growing pains, but now I feel like I'm in a good spot."

Festa was a 13th-round pick in the 2021 amateur draft out of Seton Hall. His development, to this point, has been an organizational success story. His velocity spiked and he's had a quicker rise through the minor leagues.

"If I'm throwing with conviction, I'm very competitive," he said. "I feel like half the battle is just throwing with conviction and just trusting your stuff."

When Festa reached 10 strikeouts for the second time, a start against the Detroit Tigers' AAA affiliate in Toledo, it was one of the best starts by a minor league pitcher all year. He allowed only three hits. Opposing hitters whiffed on 23 of their 40 swings, including 10 of 11 swings against his changeup.

The scary part is he considers his slider his best pitch.

Festa's combination of velocity, extension and three quality pitches can carve a path to Target Field this summer.

Does he feel big-league ready?

"Good things can happen quick," he said. "Bad things can happen quick. That's just how the sport is. There are a lot of ups and downs. I'm just trying to take it a day at a time, and not worry about those types of things. I try to worry about executing between the lines and everything else will take care of itself."