Report From The Fort: Plenty Of Heat
Image courtesy of Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY SportsWith the exception of a two-run blast off the bat of Andrew Romaine, Jose Berrios’ fourth spring training start went according to plan. The right-hander registered 96 on several pitches, a factor that Berrios attributes to some of the mechanical cues Wes Johnson has given him.
“Beginning working on mechanics, said Berrios. “To be closed in my chest and be more into my heel.”
Berrios was referring to having more of the foot pushing down through the ground. Driving from the heel is one of Johnson’s tenets to increasing velocity. Pitchers who go to their toe early in their delivery will disrupt the kinetic chain. Focusing on going down the mound from the heel can add several ticks to his velocity.
After averaging 93.2 in 2018, a few more mph's couldn’t hurt.
In addition to his mechanics, Berrios was also working on getting a feel for his changeup, something that was also encouraged by the staff. Once considered a plus-pitch, Berrios’ changeup was hit hard in 2018 (which may stem from pitch tipping) but carried a 30% whiff rate per Statcast. On Sunday, he threw four but said that because of the Phillies are low-swing strike guys, the plan was to attack with fastballs and curveballs.
***Martin Perez hit 97 multiple on the radar gun on Sunday afternoon. It’s notable considering that Perez peaked at 96.2 in 2018.
Rocco Baldellli has been pleased with Perez’s spring so far. When asked if the added velocity was something Wes Johnson tapped into, Baldelli deferred to Perez’s work ethic.
“More than anything, I like to credit the player on his offseason and the work that he put in to come into camp to feeling the way he’s feeling and throwing the ball the way he’s throwing it.”
The way he has been throwing it has been noticeably harder.
“He’s been a certain type of pitcher in his career for a while now and to see a guy before your eyes be able to make pretty big adjustments in short period of time goes to show you what kind of athlete he is,” Baldelli added. “Not many people can do that.”
Even if it does run hot, if Perez is currently sitting 95-96 regularly in spring training, it means there could be more left in the tank come midseason, since velocity often operates in a bell curve throughout the year.
Catching prospect Ben Rortvedt pasted a double to center field in the bottom of the ninth inning.
“I got up 2-0, kinda got passive on a fastball,” Rortvedt said, “Then he hung a changeup up there but I put a pretty good swing on that.”
Baldelli has noticed the work Rortvedt put in.
“He’s actually done a great job.” the manager said.”Talked to Bill [Evans] and Tanner [Swanson] our catching guys, and they really enjoy him behind the plate. He’s a very strongly built young man but he’s also extremely flexible which I found interesting, watching him sit back there behind the dish and do different things.”
Those different things means trying to keep and steal as many strikes as possible by getting as low as possible (seriously, look at this).
When asked to explain the #Bottomfeeder mentality that Swanson and others have promoted on Twitter among the catching group, Rortvedt summarized it as such: ““It all just amounts to working with the pitchers, getting counts flipped, which flips innings, which gets more wins.”
He’s still years away but the Twins have enjoyed his presence.
“He does all the physical things defensively that you would want and, truthfully, like most young hitters he’s learning a lot and probably absorbing as much as he possibly can on both sides of the ball in camp,” said Baldelli..” He’s a great person, he works extremely hard and he’s put himself in a good position to compete at the upper levels.”
***Jonathan Schoop sent a baseball off the scoreboard in left center field. It was an impressive flight. When asked if the distance surprised him, Baldalli said no.
“I’ve seen Jon hit balls like that many, many times,” said Baldelli. “This is not your average second baseman, he can do big things.”
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