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Notes: Jhoulys chasing a spot; Cruz resting

February 20, 2020

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Rocco Baldelli got his first look at Jhoulys Chacín from behind a protective screen on the field on Wednesday -- and he was excited by what he saw. • Inbox: Who's making a big splash at camp?

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Rocco Baldelli got his first look at Jhoulys Chacín from behind a protective screen on the field on Wednesday -- and he was excited by what he saw.

Inbox: Who's making a big splash at camp?

"He has really interesting stuff," the Twins' manager said. "I saw a couple of his sinkers, and they were moving almost like splits. You watch his breaking ball, and it’s extremely sharp and has kind of a unique angle to the way it breaks. That’s what you’re really looking for from pitchers in a lot of ways; you’re looking for stuff that doesn’t look conventional and normal."

Though Chacín pitched in the National League Championship Series with the Brewers as recently as 2018, the veteran is in camp on a Minor League deal, due in part to a trying '19 campaign: a 6.01 ERA in 103 1/3 innings for the Brewers and Red Sox.

But with a temporary hole in Minnesota's rotation, Chacín sees an opportunity to prove himself to a quality team. For the first two months of the season, Michael Pineda will be sidelined with a suspension, and Rich Hill is recovering from an offseason left elbow injury, which will shore the pitching staff back up down the road. But even before then, it's not a clear path for Chacín, who will need to beat out Devin Smeltzer, Lewis Thorpe and Randy Dobnak for the spot in Spring Training.

Chacín's recent results have not been pretty, but there's more than enough upside -- and playoff experience -- for the Twins to give him a shot.

"He’s taken that accountability for that season," said president of baseball operations Derek Falvey. "But the prior seasons were really good, and I think he’s excited about the chance to come back and prove himself and show that he’s much more like a pitcher from previous seasons than he was last year."

With that in mind, Chacín is here because he, too, is excited by what he sees.

For one, Chacín sees a winning team. And he's also very much looking forward to working with Twins pitching coach Wes Johnson, whose reputation has already started to spread after only one season coaching in professional baseball. Chacín said he was pointed in his direction by Reds pitching coach Derek Johnson, who worked with the right-hander in Milwaukee.

"I heard a lot about [Wes Johnson] and was excited," Chacín said. "You hear a lot of good things about him and about working with him. I feel like he can help me get back to how I was before."

Chacín feels that the cause of his struggles was losing his release point, which, in turn, prevented him from keeping his fastball down in the zone, which lowered his ground-ball rate. Johnson and Minnesota's biomechanical staff have helped many of their pitchers with mechanical consistency and the works -- something that could pay off for the club if they can get Chacín right.

Up next
Friday will be prospect paradise at Hammond Stadium, as the Twins plan to trot out a lineup of almost every elite hitting prospect they have with them at Major League camp in an exhibition game against the University of Minnesota.

The lineup posted Thursday featured seven prospects ranked among the organization's top 30 by MLB Pipeline: shortstop Royce Lewis (No. 1), right fielder Alex Kirilloff (No. 2), designated hitter Trevor Larnach (No. 4), left fielder Brent Rooker (No. 7), catcher Ryan Jeffers (No. 9), center fielder Gilberto Celestino (No. 19) and second baseman Travis Blankenhorn (No. 22).

Twins' Top 30 Prospects list

Each of the top six hitters in the batting order -- Lewis, Kirilloff, Jeffers, Larnach, Rooker and Blankenhorn -- is a homegrown prospect selected by the Twins in the first three rounds of the MLB Draft. That group is headlined by Kirilloff, Lewis and Larnach, Minnesota's first-round Draft selections in 2016, '17 and '18, respectively.

"It's fun to throw a lot of our really good young players out there and watch them play together," Baldelli said. "It's cool to see these guys out there, and it's fun regardless. But it's fun when you really get to see them team up and you watch them run around at the same time and watch them interact with each other. Hopefully, they have some fun out there. It'll be a fun night. I'm looking forward to it."

The Gophers will also face a stiff challenge against the Twins' planned lineup of pitchers, which will begin with Dobnak, off his start in Game 2 of the American League Division Series, and continue with Trevor May, Tyler Duffey, Blaine Hardy, Matt Wisler, Danny Coulombe and Sam Clay in some order. All but Coulombe and Clay pitched in the Majors last season.

Odds and ends
Nelson Cruz (bruised left wrist) received some treatment in the training room on Thursday and was held out of action after he was hit by a pitch during live batting practice the day before. Baldelli said he expects Cruz to resume action on Friday or Saturday.

Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.