Stewart prepares to pitch in any role

Twins building culture of success; Moya dealing with discomfort

March 7th, 2019

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Kohl Stewart ran through the pitches in his arsenal -- fastball, changeup, sinker, cutter, curveball, slider.

“How many is that?” Stewart asked Thursday, before answering his own question with a smile. “Maybe too many.”

The 24-year-old right-hander is hoping to pare one pitch from his arsenal -- the cutter -- while continuing to develop a slider. It’s a work in progress, with the key word being progress.

“I’m real happy with where the slider is at right now. It’s obviously my big focus,” said Stewart, who made his fourth spring appearance for the Twins on Thursday, pitching the first two innings in a 12-1 victory against the Red Sox. Stewart struck out two while surrendering one run on two hits.

Of Stewart’s four appearances that have produced a 5.40 ERA this spring, three have been starts. The plan is to have him stretched out by the end of Spring Training in order to have him available to fill any role the Twins might have.

“I’ve been told there are a lot of things they could see me doing, and to be ready to do anything they asked of me,” he said. “As the big league season goes, different things open up, and they ask you to do different things. I’m ready to do any of those things, whether it’s bullpen, starting, opening -- doesn’t matter.”

Stewart began working on a slider during the offseason with Twins pitching coaches Jeremy Hefner and Wes Johnson.

“We’ve been doing a lot of work with it; a lot of conversations,” said Stewart, who estimated he threw the pitch about a dozen times to the eight Boston batters he faced. “Obviously when you get in games, things change. I can throw a perfect slider in the bullpen, but you just don’t really know. You’ve got to get competitive hitters’ feedback and see how it plays. I like where it’s at. I’m happy with the pitch and I think it’s going to be a big weapon for me this year.”

Volleying around ideas

In the spirit of success breeding success, the Twins invited University of Minnesota volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon to camp to informally interact with the front office, the coaching staff and players.

“He’ll be around for a few days and probably here and there during the regular season too,” said Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey. “It’s always good to get an outside perspective and exchange ideas on culture, leadership and coaching. Hugh McCutcheon is somebody who has had a lot of success.”

A New Zealand native who played college volleyball at Brigham Young University, McCutcheon has a 189-47 record coaching both the men and women at UM. He also has coached the U.S. men’s national volleyball team to a 107-33 record.

Falvey noted that Twins manager Rocco Baldelli, who was an all-state high school volleyball player in Rhode Island, has already connected well with McCutcheon.

“I think you’re seeing teams do this more and more, bringing in other people from other sports to see what we can learn from each other,” he said.

Moya feeling pain

Falvey said that left-handed pitcher has been dealing with tightness and soreness in his left shoulder and back. The Twins do not believe it to be serious, but they are proceeding with caution. Moya is on the 40-man roster and is expected to provide the pitching staff with depth this season.

Up next

Jose Berrios, who is slated to be the Twins’ Opening Day starter, will get his third Grapefruit League start on Friday, in a 12:05 p.m. CT home game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Berríos, 24, led Minnesota with 202 strikeouts last season, while also posting a career-best 3.84 ERA. Also scheduled to pitch for the Twins are Addison Reed, Taylor Rogers, Blake Parker, Trevor Hildenberger, Mike Morin and Preston Guilmet. The Rays will start Ryan Merritt, with Jake Faria, Adam Kolarek, Ricardo Pinto, Luis Santos and Hoby Milner also slated to throw.