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Jordan Balazovic, once viewed as the best pitching prospect in the Twins farm system, doesn't dwell on the past after the most challenging year of his baseball career.

He knows he won't show up on top prospect lists after his 2022 season, when he posted a 7.39 ERA in 21 starts at Class AAA St. Paul. He understands he lost a chance to prove himself in spring training when he broke his jaw before the start of camp.

Balazovic, a 24-year-old righthander, wants to keep his focus on the opportunity ahead of him. It's a new path as he transitions to a multi-inning reliever, but it's how he remains motivated instead of frustrated.

"Being the pitcher I know I can be as opposed to being out there and trying to survive, it's being able to execute and doing all the little things," Balazovic said. "All those little things are starting to get better."

It's a bit of a make-or-break season for Balazovic. He will be out of minor league options next season, limiting his roster flexibility. Once he built up his pitch count, he made three starts before moving into a long reliever role.

The results have been mixed.

Balazovic's stats are fine with a 4.41 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 34⅔ innings this year, but he is learning how to create a routine in the bullpen. He has typically been worse in his first inning out of the bullpen before settling into a rhythm on the mound.

"I have to get my tempo more consistent," he said. "The first inning I was rushing a little bit. After that, a deep breath basically, you calm down and get back under control."

Balazovic shows flashes of the pitcher who was rated as one of the sport's top 100 prospects. His velocity is back after pitching through knee pain last year. His fastball sits around 95 mph. He has a power breaking ball with his slider and a slower curveball that he locates well at the bottom of the strike zone.

He struck out seven across 3⅓ innings last Tuesday, generating swings and misses with his entire arsenal of pitches.

Then there are outings like Sunday's when he induces a lot of whiffs, but he still gave up four hits and four walks in three innings. His walk rate remains high — 15 free passes in his past 27 innings — but his strikeout rate is back near a career best.

"My velo has been better because I'm trying less and letting my body work as opposed to trying to throw hard," Balazovic said. "Now that my lower half is strong, I can be violent toward the end. That was the biggest difference. Last year, I sped up my tempo trying to throw hard. And I didn't have it. I wasn't strong enough in my lower half. Now, since I am, I can stay back that split-second longer and then be violent."

Balazovic felt the start to his minor league season was a turning point, giving up three runs in his first 15 innings.

He was determined not to fall too far behind his teammates despite recovering from a broken jaw suffered when he was punched outside a Fort Myers, Fla., establishment in spring training. It solidified his belief that his ugly numbers from the 2022 season could be blamed on knee soreness.

"At the end of the day, I just want results," Balazovic said. "Once I get those results, good things happen. Putting up zeros, getting results and winning games, that's my main focus. After that, who knows what happens? If I do my job, then good things happen and who knows?"

It wasn't long ago when the Twins envisioned Balazovic in the middle of their starting rotation, but that possibility has passed.

The move to the bullpen, Balazovic said, is fine with him.

"Working on all the little things to be prepared for that next step, I feel like I'm doing a lot better job at that," he said. "That's the thing, right? It's a big year, so I have to do my part."