J.O. 2.0: Will Adjustments Pay Off For Berrios?
Image courtesy of Kim Klement, USA TodayBerrios has, of course, proven his mastery of the minors beyond any shadow of doubt. That has been more true than ever in the early portion of 2017 as the right-hander has eviscerated International League lineups while registering a 1.13 ERA in six starts.
On paper, he has checked every box. If the directive was "trust your stuff and and attack," then the numbers tell us he has answered it to a tee. Berrios has traded in strikeouts for weak contact. The K-rate is down slightly but so are the walks, and he has been remarkably efficient.
Twice in his six turns he has completed eight innings. He did so while needing fewer than 100 pitches on both occasions. Only once has he failed to get through six. Opponents are batting .169 with a .471 OPS.
It's hard to dominate much more than that, but of course, Berrios has always dominated at Triple-A. His ugly MLB stints last year, between sterling stretches with the Red Wings, made it clear that certain issues afflicting him don't necessarily manifest against minor-league lineups.
Asking a guy to tweak those issues while they're not manifesting is a tall order. Berrios can do his best to follow the specific blueprint that Twins officials have laid out for him, but how could he really negatively assess his progress while routinely shutting down opponents and winning games?
For what it's worth, there are some signs he's making a few adjustments that could help alleviate his troubles at the highest level. In particular, there is this: in his last two starts with Rochester, Berrios allowed only one run on eight hits in 14 2/3 innings. Across the two turns he got 44 called strikes against just 14 swinging.
That's not a guy who is getting outs by nibbling around the edges or inducing chases out of the zone. He's succeeding by throwing it over the plate, early in counts, which is precisely what the Twins want to see him do at the next level.
The only way for the 22-year-old to get over the hump is to be thrown into the fire, and now he will. We saw the benefit of this approach with Byron Buxton, who hung in there through weeks of maddening results at the plate before turning things around. Granted, in his case, showing patience was a little easier given all that he was chipping on on the defensive side. But the Twins have managed to stay around .500 thus far even with Gibson delivering clunkers every fifth day and without any real contribution from a fifth starter. They can live through further growing pains from Berrios.
Hopefully, they won't need to. He had a plan that he executed over four weeks at Triple-A; there's really not much to criticize in his performance if unless you're nitpicking. If he can shake off the nerves and execute that same plan on Saturday afternoon in Cleveland, it'll be a first pitch strike to open his return to the majors.
A year ago at this time the already irrelevant Twins were wrapping up an eight-game losing streak and Berrios was wrapping up the first of multiple disappointing attempts in Minnesota. Now he'll join a team that's looking very competitive, and he's bringing more momentum than ever.
Here's to new beginnings.
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