SAN JOSE, Puerto Rico -- Twins manager Paul Molitor had a long and illustrious playing career, but he never had the chance to play in Puerto Rico outside of a charity event with Carlos Baerga in 1997 on the 25th anniversary of Roberto Clemente's death.So Molitor said he's excited for
SAN JOSE, Puerto Rico -- Twins manager Paul Molitor had a long and illustrious playing career, but he never had the chance to play in Puerto Rico outside of a charity event with Carlos Baerga in 1997 on the 25th anniversary of Roberto Clemente's death.
So Molitor said he's excited for his players to take part in the Puerto Rico series against the Indians, especially Puerto Rico natives Eddie Rosario and Jose Berrios. Molitor understands the series is bigger than baseball, as it's raising awareness and funds for the island after Hurricane Maria struck in September. It's expected to have an economic impact of $17 million, according to the Puerto Rico Tourism Company.
"This is a great opportunity for me as well to be part of Major League Baseball's efforts to support all the things Puerto Rico does for us," Molitor said. "From the players they've given us to the support of the fans who love our game. It's a chance to give back and understand the devastation that took place last summer. It just comes together as a great opportunity."
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Molitor made sure to get Berrios a start on his home island, and the right-hander will start on Wednesday in the second game of the two-game series. It took some rejiggering of the rotation to make it work after the Twins were snowed out from Friday to Sunday, but Berrios will get his first start since Thursday, and it'll come in front of his hometown fans at Hiram Bithorn Stadium.
"I thought it was important for him to get the opportunity to pitch here and for the fans to see him pitch live here in a Major League game," Molitor said. "With the postponements and cancellations, we had to look at it and see if it could work. I had to skip Lance Lynn, but Jose has been throwing the ball really well and I wanted to get him back out there as quick as possible."
Molitor was asked by a Puerto Rican reporter if he believes Berrios is becoming an ace, and while Molitor didn't want to put a label on him, he was effusive with his praise for the 23-year-old who has posted a 2.18 ERA with 24 strikeouts and one walk in 20 2/3 innings this year.
"He's becoming an upper-echelon pitcher at this level," Molitor said. "I don't think we've really seen how dominant he can be."
As for Rosario, Molitor noted that he seems to enjoy playing on the biggest stage, including homering in last year's American League Wild Card Game against the Yankees. Rosario will start in left field in both games and will bring his flair to the game.
"When he's engaged, he's dangerous," Molitor said. "He ended up with a middle-of-the-lineup bat and is a high-level defensive player. It was just a matter of time before he figured things out. He still has a ways to go, but he's entertaining. You have to keep your eyes on that guy, because you never know what he's going to do on a baseball field."
Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.