Perez benefiting from mentor, new mechanics

Lefty is working with two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana

March 9th, 2019

BRADENTON, Fla. -- This isn't the old .

He's got extra zip on his fastball. He's emphasizing his cutter. He's got fellow Venezuelan left-hander Johan Santana as a mentor in the clubhouse. It's only Spring Training, but Pérez's work is continuing to pay off on the field, as the left-hander again topped out at 97 mph in four scoreless innings in Minnesota's 10-1 victory over the Pirates on Saturday.

Pérez said he's using his hips more in his delivery after working with new pitching coach Wes Johnson and his knowledge of biomechanics. Though Pérez insists he's not necessarily focused on adding velocity, his fastball showed consistent velocity around 95 mph for the second straight start -- up from an average of 92.8 mph last season, per Statcast.

"Before, I just used my arms," Pérez said. "Now, I'm using all my body, and you guys can see the results. I don't miss inside anymore. One or two, but before, I missed -- like I was trying to use all of my upper body. Now, I just stay on the line and just throw the ball in front of my eyes."

Pérez said that he's working on his delivery every morning and working with Santana, who won two American League Cy Young Awards during his time as the Twins' ace. Pérez is trying to emphasize attacking hitters inside with his fastball and utilizing his changeup.

The 27-year-old left-hander struck out three in his four frames on Saturday after tallying four strikeouts in three shutout innings against Philadelphia in his last start.

"He’s done such a good job of throwing innings and not having to even use the number of pitches that you would normally allot for him," manager Rocco Baldelli said. "So a very successful day."

After missing more than two months last season with soreness in his non-throwing elbow, Pérez says he's feeling his best since 2017. He looks to be in line to earn the Twins' fifth rotation spot, though Minnesota could opt for a four-man rotation through the first three weeks of the regular season.

"I’ll tell you this, it doesn’t appear a fun at-bat the way he’s going about his business right now," Baldelli said.

"I'm working, man. Like I said, I'm excited," Pérez said. "I had a long time that I didn't feel healthy before. This year, we're going to have a good result this year."

Michael Reed homers as part of Twins onslaught

Outfielder  made his spring debut on Saturday, going 1-for-3 with a fifth-inning homer to center field off Pittsburgh right-hander . Reed, who was born in Maplewood, Minn., was claimed off waivers from the Braves during the offseason and missed the start of Spring Training with back soreness.

Reed, 26, is out of Minor League options but doesn't have a clear fit in the Twins' crowded outfield picture, which could see ,  and even  share playing time behind the starters. Reed has 37 plate appearances over parts of three Major League seasons, but he was a .342/.453/.520 hitter with 11 homers, 26 doubles and 10 steals across two Minor League levels last season.

"I’ve been looking forward to watching him play," Baldelli said. "He’s a big, strong guy, and when you watch him move around, you might not realize it ... but when he gets loose and starts opening it up, he’s a guy that has strength and has performed well offensively in his career."

Reed,  and  all homered off Kela in a four-run fifth inning.  and  also hit long balls for Minnesota.

Up next

 will make his second start of the spring in a 1:05 p.m. ET game against the Blue Jays on Sunday at Hammond Stadium. The 28-year-old was effective in his spring debut on Tuesday, striking out four in 2 2/3 scoreless innings. Right-hander , who has allowed one hit in five spring appearances, is also scheduled to pitch. Cruz is expected to slot in at designated hitter for his third Spring Training start.