Berríos '100 percent' feels close to regaining form

May 13th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Keegan Matheson's Blue Jays Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

José Berríos isn’t the type of pitcher who typically struggles, and when he does, it’s rarely ugly. 

There are no seven-run innings, prime-time meltdowns or stretches where he loses the zone entirely. But still, the star right-hander owns a 5.82 ERA after seven starts, a quiet and surprising turn for one of baseball’s most consistent pitchers over the past five years. 

Stretching back to 2017, Berríos owned a 3.74 ERA over the previous five full seasons, and there were barely any peaks or valleys to speak of. He topped 190 innings in three of those four full-length seasons, too, making him an outlier in a league where top-end workhorses are growing more rare by the year. That’s why the Blue Jays handed Berríos a seven-year, $131 million extension, and did so happily. 

Berríos’ start against the Yankees on Wednesday is a great example of how his season has gone. He looked fantastic in the early innings, but with the Blue Jays’ offense scuffling, everything the starter does is magnified. Eventually, Gleyber Torres snuck a 361-foot shot over the wall in right field for a three-run homer, and all of that was washed away.

“It was one of those days, baseball being baseball,” Berríos said. “[The Yankees] are playing well, but it was one of those days where you go out there and do your best, but they do better than you. I’m just going to be patient.”

This isn’t just bad luck and bad bounces. Berríos is being hit hard, sitting in just the 12th percentile of MLB pitchers when it comes to exit velocity and hard-hit percentage. His velocities are all in line with career averages, but Berríos has been making adjustments on the fly. Even if the results don’t show it, the 27-year-old felt that game in the Bronx was a step forward from his previous outing in Cleveland.

“I 100 percent feel better,” Berríos said. “I threw better breaking balls and changeups. I just want to keep working hard and keep working with my pitching coach. I’m going to keep moving forward.”

Charlie Montoyo agreed. The Blue Jays’ manager saw a better version of Berríos in New York, but he re-emphasized the impact that Toronto’s lineup has on the pitching staff. Until the Blue Jays start to break some games wide open, pitchers will continue to be asked to be perfect. 

A hard, dense schedule hasn’t helped, but Berríos isn’t making excuses.

“It’s rough, but it’s what we have to do,” Berríos said. “We have to get through this. Every guy in the clubhouse gives 100 percent every day, and we got through a lot of games in one month.”

Thankfully for Berríos, Kevin Gausman’s brilliant start and Alek Manoah’s seemingly endless upward trajectory have helped to carry the load. This isn’t the start the Blue Jays wanted, but if there’s one pitcher on this roster who has earned patience with his track record, it’s Berríos.