FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Most fans don't realize that there's any difference, but ask any player and they'll tell you the baseballs used in the Major Leagues are slightly different than the ones used in the Minors.
The seams are tighter and smaller on a Major League ball, which is made in Costa Rica, while Minor League balls are a bit easier to grip and made in China. Hard-throwing Twins reliever J.T. Chargois found out the difference when called up for the first time last year, as the way he gripped his slider wasn't conducive to the big league ball.
So Chargois worked to change his slider grip this offseason, and is hoping it helps him avoid the fingernail issues he endured as a rookie last year. He's enlisted the help of closer Glen Perkins and pitching coach Neil Allen to alter his grip.
"Last year, I was running into some issues with my nail, so I'm trying to come up with a more traditional grip than something that's going to snap my fingernail off," said Chargois, the Twins' No. 11 prospect. "That's coming along. The seams on that big league ball are just harder, so it was too much when I spiked it because it was cracking my nail."
Perkins is Chargois' throwing partner during Spring Training and has offered his advice on how to throw the slider, as it developed into a great pitch for Perkins, who was a three-time All-Star until undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder.
"I've been helping with his grip and release point," Perkins said. "Just getting the shape of the pitch right so you can see it. Trying to help him along because he's got good stuff. I think a breaking ball would put him over the top with the velocity and movement he has."
Chargois, 26, is competing for a spot in the bullpen and is arguably the Twins' hardest-thrower in camp, as his fastball averaged 96.2 mph last year. But he's also working to harness it, as fastball command remains an issue. Chargois gave up five runs and two walks while recording two outs in his Major League debut on June 11, but after a two-month stint in the Minors, he fared better down the stretch with a 2.82 ERA over his final 24 outings to finish the year with a 4.70 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 23 innings.
"Success wherever you are always helps and allows you to see that you can do it," Chargois said. "The main thing I'm working on is the same thing as last year, and that's command of the fastball. That allows everything else to play."