Windup change has Berrios feeling confident

Former top prospect seeks to improve on rookie campaign

Windup change has Berrios feeling confident

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- While his rookie season didn't go quite as planned, Twins right-hander Jose Berrios is ready to move on and believes a subtle change to his windup will help him bounce back this season.

The Twins had high hopes for Berrios, who entered last year as MLBPipeline.com's No. 19 prospect, but he struggled with an 8.02 ERA in 14 starts. Berrios worked with pitching coach Neil Allen on his arm action late last season, as there was some worry he was tipping pitches, particularly his changeup; hitters could see his grip when he took the ball behind his back before his delivery. Berrios said he has cleaned that up and is feeling comfortable with his new arm path.

"I kept working with that during the offseason," Berrios said. "Now I feel great. My new windup feels really good with the tempo."

Berrios, 22, said he never lost his confidence last year despite the results. He's trying to be more loose and relaxed this spring after putting pressure on himself last year and sometimes rushing through his delivery. He's competing for a spot in the rotation with a long list of candidates, but he's focusing only on what he can control.

"I'm trying to be me," Berrios said. "I'm trying to be comfortable and confident and relaxed. I feel that right now. I'm trying to have fun with the guys here.

Berrios on start

"I'm competing, but I have to prepare myself for what I can control. I'm going to go out there and do my best work. I want to make the team and then help the team and do better than last year."

Berrios will be away from the team for a while this spring, however, as he's set to play for Team Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic for a second time. He leaves for Arizona on March 6 to train alongside fellow Twins teammates Hector Santiago, Kennys Vargas, Eddie Rosario and Dereck Rodriguez.

Twins well-represented with 10 in WBC 2017

"It's an honor to represent my country," Berrios said. "I'm proud and it's going to be a lot of fun. Last time was a big experience for me. Everyone wants to play in the Majors, but when you get a chance to play for your country, it happens only every four years."

Twins manager Paul Molitor said he's happy Berrios gets to represent his country, but it can make it tougher to evaluate the competition for the fifth-starter role. However, Berrios could boost his case with a strong showing in the Classic.

"I'd like to have Berrios in here the whole spring, but with him and Santiago going [to the World Baseball Classic], that might open up a few more opportunities to extend guys," Molitor said. "I just don't think we have many people out in that room that are in a position to feel overly comfortable. But I'm open-minded about how it's going to fill out, particularly at the bottom end."

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.