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Pitching in PR exciting, significant to Odorizzi

MLB.com @jonmorosi

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Monday marked the fourth consecutive day the Twins did not play a baseball game for which a weekend snowout in Minneapolis was chiefly to blame.

That's the longest combination of weather-related postponements and scheduled off-days for a Major League Baseball team since the Mariners were idle for five days in April 2007, according to MLB Network.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Monday marked the fourth consecutive day the Twins did not play a baseball game for which a weekend snowout in Minneapolis was chiefly to blame.

That's the longest combination of weather-related postponements and scheduled off-days for a Major League Baseball team since the Mariners were idle for five days in April 2007, according to MLB Network.

"Just your average April All-Star break," Twins right-hander Jake Odorizzi quipped Monday.

The respite is due to end at a jubilant Hiram Bithorn Stadium on Tuesday, as the Twins and Indians play the first MLB game in Puerto Rico since 2010. As Minnesota's starting pitcher, Odorizzi will throw the pitch that brings big league baseball back to the island.

Odorizzi has had six days of rest since his last outing. Fellow starter Lance Lynn will pitch on 10 days' rest when he returns to the mound Friday. But neither is complaining, because they're committed to a goal the Twins have shared since the start of Spring Training: Jose Berrios -- the Bayamon, Puerto Rico, native who grew up less than 10 miles away from the ballpark -- must start one of the two games in his homeland.

Video: Perez, Lindor excited to play at Hiram Bithorn

In fact, Lynn approached Twins manager Paul Molitor to suggest that his start be moved back, out of respect to Berrios.

"He beat me to the punch," Odorizzi said. "He volunteered for it. We both wanted Jose to throw down here. This is a very special thing. We're excited to see him in his homeland, getting to throw in front of a bunch of family."

Berrios, 23, would have been a strong candidate to start Minnesota's season opener, but this week's Puerto Rico Series took precedent. The Opening Day honor instead belonged to Odorizzi, who had arrived from Tampa Bay in a trade only six weeks before.

Odorizzi has validated that trust, going 1-0 with a 2.20 ERA in his first three starts with the Twins.

"He has all the ability to be the Opening Day starter," Odorizzi said of Berrios. "He's got plenty of Opening Days ahead of him, and I think we can see why that is. For him, on a personal note -- not to speak for him -- but I think this is more important, all things considered, especially with what they went through with [Hurricane Maria]. This brings a lot of light and a lot of joy to a lot of people here. I'm excited for him."

The Twins and Indians each have two Puerto Rican natives on their roster: Berrios and outfielder Eddie Rosario for Minnesota; Francisco Lindor and Roberto Perez for Cleveland.

Video: Berrios, Rosario excited to play in Puerto Rico

Odorizzi was among the Twins players who embraced the island ethos with their sartorial choices for Sunday's team charter to San Juan. He wore white jeans and a white jean jacket, along with a red button-down shirt and bright red shoes.

"After the first hour [of the flight], there was a lot of excitement, a lot of Latin music on the plane," Odorizzi said. "Everyone was getting in the mood. You could tell [Berrios and Rosario] were happy. As soon as we landed, there was a lot of 'Puerto Rico!' screams and yells in the back, letting everyone know we're here. You can see the energy -- for a lot of people around the park, too. This is a big thing."

Both of the games are sold out, and Odorizzi acknowledged the uniqueness of pitching before a raucous neutral-site crowd that isn't necessarily aligned with one team over the other.

:: Puerto Rico Series coverage ::

"I'm excited," he said. "It might be a hostile crowd when you're facing the local guys, but that's OK. This is going to be a really cool event. ... It's one of those things where you might gain fans as the game goes on, depending on how you're doing. It'll be unique. I've never played winter ball, but I've heard it's a lot of excitement, a lot of music. It'll be a fun environment, and I think a lot of guys are going to feed off that."

Former Indians All-Star infielder Carlos Baerga, who grew up in the San Juan area, said in an interview Monday with MLB.com that Puerto Rico is "75 percent" back to normal after Hurricane Maria. During his first 24 hours on the island, Odorizzi said he's seen evidence of that resurgence.

"I've never been here [before], but I feel like there's a lot of work that's been done since then, a lot of people getting their lives back together," Odorizzi said. "I'm sure once you get outside of the city, there's a lot of rebuilding to this day. But where we're at, everything looks beautiful. They've done a really good job of getting things back in order. I know the power situation was a very tough thing to deal with, and still is today, but I think they've done a fantastic job."

Video: HOU@MIN: Odorizzi strikes out Springer swinging

While the greater significance of this week's series will be on Odorizzi's mind Tuesday night, he also won't forget the more basic circumstances: Two division rivals and 2017 playoff teams are playing for the first time this season. The team that wins Tuesday's game will occupy first place in the American League Central.

"These are important games," Odorizzi said. "We're playing against the team that won the division last year, and this is our first time facing them [this season]. It's a big two-game series. For us to do what we want to do this year, we have to be able to beat them. This will be a good test of where we're at."

26th man
Outfielder Ryan LaMarre, who was optioned on Sunday to make room for right-handed pitcher Alan Busenitz, is expected to be recalled as the 26th man on Tuesday for the Puerto Rico Series.

Jon Paul Morosi is a columnist for MLB.com.

Minnesota Twins, Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi