FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Although he was traded after he had already reported to Spring Training, right-hander Jake Odorizzi wasn't shocked when he found out he was sent to the Twins late Saturday night.Odorizzi, who arrived at Twins camp on Monday, had heard rumors all offseason that the Rays were
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Although he was traded after he had already reported to Spring Training, right-hander Jake Odorizzi wasn't shocked when he found out he was sent to the Twins late Saturday night.
Odorizzi, who arrived at Twins camp on Monday, had heard rumors all offseason that the Rays were looking to trade him, and he said that the first three days of camp with Tampa Bay were tough before he found out the news he was going to Minnesota in exchange for shortstop prospect Jermaine Palacios.
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"It was kind of tough being in spring because I knew talks were going on," Odorizzi said. "You know every day you could be somewhere else. It was hard to focus on winning. But just the vibe, in camp you don't want a cloud hanging over Spring Training. Optimism is what you want. Not a dark cloud."
That self-described dark cloud has been lifted, as Odorizzi joins the Twins, who are trying to build a consistent winner and are coming off an appearance in last year's American League Wild Card Game. Minnesota had been looking for a starting pitcher all offseason, and the team found its man in Odorizzi, who will earn $6.3 million this year and is under control through 2019.
"It's nice to have that closure," Odorizzi said. "I couldn't be any happier to be here. I'm really excited about the team and the direction they're heading. It's a good time to be here."
Odorizzi, 27, possesses a career 3.83 ERA over parts of six seasons with the Royals and Rays, but he struggled a bit last year, posting a 4.14 ERA with 127 strikeouts, 61 walks and 30 homers allowed in 143 1/3 innings. Odorizzi dealt with injuries, including a hamstring strain and a lower back strain that lingered throughout the year until he was placed on the disabled list in late July.
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Odorizzi pitched more like himself the rest of the way, posting a 3.51 ERA over his final 10 starts, including a 1.03 ERA in five September starts. And he feels like his back issue is under control with a new workout program that includes Pilates.
"It wasn't good," Odorizzi said about his season. "I ended up really strong at the end, but I battled through a lot of lingering back issues and pitched the whole year with it. I took some time off to get back in the swing of things, but once I came back, I was a completely different pitcher. I made adjustments throughout the season to pitch with that, which looking back wasn't a good idea, but at the time my arm felt good and I had an obligation to pitch."
Catcher Bobby Wilson, who is in Twins camp as a non-roster invite, caught Odorizzi each of the last two seasons in Tampa Bay, and said he it's not a surprise the righty tried to pitch through an injury to try to help the team.
"He's a bulldog and he wants the ball," Wilson said. "It's refreshing for the guys playing behind him. I think that's his biggest asset. He's not scared or intimidated by anybody."
Odorizzi possesses a fastball that averages 91.6 mph to go along with a slider, cutter, curveball and split-change, with the changeup being his most effective swing-and-miss pitch. He lives at the top of the strike zone with his fastball, changing hitters' eye levels, but he said he got predictable last year with his fastball location. It's a reason why he gave up a career-high 30 homers.
"It's just about locating the fastball, period," Odorizzi said. "I excel with the high one, but it's more effective if I can locate before I get to that pitch. I have to do a better job of limiting the walks this year and getting down into the zone sooner. It takes away from the effect of a high fastball when you consistently live up there."
Odorizzi will throw his eighth bullpen session of the spring on Tuesday, and he said he won't be putting any pressure on himself despite being the club's marquee pitching acquisition heading into the year.
"I'm ready to be a healthy me," Odorizzi said. "If I'm healthy, I think I can do a pretty decent job."
Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast.