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Young Berrios a Classic vet for Puerto Rico

Twins right-hander, 22, pitched for PR in 2013 WBC
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The tiny bit of hesitation and wonder that right-hander Jose Berrios might have felt last year with the Twins in his first Major League games was long gone Thursday afternoon.

Pitching for Puerto Rico in the first inning of a 10-2 loss to the Rockies, Berrios faced bases loaded and a full-count against Trevor Story, a power-hitting shortstop. Rather than wonder if what he had was good enough, Berrios uncorked a changeup -- arguably the best changeup of anyone in the Minors before he broke into the bigs with 14 starts last year -- and watched Story swing over it to end the inning scoreless.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The tiny bit of hesitation and wonder that right-hander Jose Berrios might have felt last year with the Twins in his first Major League games was long gone Thursday afternoon.

Pitching for Puerto Rico in the first inning of a 10-2 loss to the Rockies, Berrios faced bases loaded and a full-count against Trevor Story, a power-hitting shortstop. Rather than wonder if what he had was good enough, Berrios uncorked a changeup -- arguably the best changeup of anyone in the Minors before he broke into the bigs with 14 starts last year -- and watched Story swing over it to end the inning scoreless.

Last season, Berrios went 3-7 with an 8.02 ERA. It wasn't the storybook beginning anyone would have hoped, but considering that he might be Minnesota's best pitching prospect in a decade, the organization hopes he'll write happier pages. Thursday had to fuel that hope.

Not only is he a key pitcher for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic -- he will start his country's third game against Italy (Sunday, 3:30 p.m. ET, live on MLB.TV and MLB Network) -- but he's competing for the Twins' season-opening rotation.

:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::

"It's good for me, for my confidence," Berrios said. "We work every day to do something good. I used all three pitches -- my fastball, my curve, my changeup -- and today I got the opportunity to pitch with the bases loaded, two outs. The big guy, Story, has power, and I competed and threw my best pitch."

The World Baseball Classic runs through March 22. In the U.S., games air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. The tournament is being distributed internationally across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games at Marlins Park, Tokyo Dome, Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Mexico, Petco Park, as well as the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.

Maybe last year, Berrios, 22, would have used the changeup against Story. But the conviction would've been questionable.

"I was a rookie guy pitching at the best level, I had a little bit of over-thinking," Berrios said. "But this year, I feel better. The confidence is up. I pitched 14 games in the Majors last year."

Berrios yielded singles to Charlie Blackmon and Ian Desmond, and walked Gerardo Parra before winning his confrontation with Story.

While he is young in his career, he's a World Baseball Classic vet. He appeared in 2013 at age 18.

"He's ready for the big leagues, so why not?" Puerto Rico manager Edwin Rodriguez said. "He's ready for this kind of tournament. The quality of hitters he's going to be facing is Major League. It's going to be a great experience for him. That pitch -- 3-2 with the bases loaded -- tells a lot about his maturity as a pitcher."

Video: Beltran excited for World Baseball Classic

Worth noting

• Puerto Rico dropped both exhibitions in Scottsdale -- 6-5 to the Giants on Wednesday and Thursday's to the Rockies -- but Rodriguez believes a lineup balanced with veterans (Angel Pagan, Carlos Beltran, Yadier Molina) and young stars (Javier Baez, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa and Eddie Rosario) is in a good place going into Friday night's opener against Venezuela in Jalisco, Mexico (9 ET, live on MLB.TV and MLB Network).

"That regular lineup played 11 or 12 innings [in exhibitions] and we scored some runs, and we have some speed and power," Rodriguez said. "We're very balanced and we're expecting a lot from this team."

• Puerto Rico managed two hits off Rockies starter Jon Gray and two runs against highly regarded prospect Jeff Hoffman (No. 44 overall prospect, per MLBPipeline.com) while facing each right-hander for three innings.

"It was good to face that kind of quality -- both at 94, 95 [mph] consistently with good secondary pitches," Rodriguez said. "We're pleased going into the tournament and expecting to face Felix Hernandez [on Friday]."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page.

Puerto Rico, Jose Berrios