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Gonsalves hits 93 mph in first start of spring

Mechanical changes give lefty shot at rotation spot
@dohyoungpark
February 27, 2019

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Pitching coach Wes Johnson calls it the "Road to 95." When Johnson visited left-hander Stephen Gonsalves in San Diego during the offseason, he brought suggestions to bring back the southpaw's lost velocity and clean up his mechanics. During his two innings of work in the Twins' rain-shortened

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Pitching coach Wes Johnson calls it the "Road to 95."

When Johnson visited left-hander Stephen Gonsalves in San Diego during the offseason, he brought suggestions to bring back the southpaw's lost velocity and clean up his mechanics. During his two innings of work in the Twins' rain-shortened 4-2 win over the Phillies on Wednesday, Gonsalves was thrilled to see the radar gun flash "93" on several occasions.

"As long as there's no more 86 and 87 [mph] fastballs, I'll be happy," Gonsalves said.

Gonsalves, the Twins' No. 11 prospect per MLB Pipeline, had a 6.57 ERA in his first taste of the Major Leagues last season, when his fastball averaged 89.8 mph, per Statcast. He said that in high school, his fastball used to track in the low 90s.

Gonsalves has benefited from Johnson's focus on biomechanics, as he has worked on his arm speed and getting more torque from his hips in his delivery. The results have been evident, as Gonsalves said he is already up from the 86-87 mph he averaged this time last year.

He's also happy with where his slider and changeup are so far as he continues to work on his curveball. Gonsalves said that Johnson suggested a minor tweak to his hips during his last bullpen session, and he was trying to feel out his offspeed pitches on Wednesday in his first outing since integrating the mechanical change.

"My changeup is one of my favorite pitches to throw," he said. "I'm confident with it. I feel like I can make it go sideways or even straight down. It felt good today."

Though Martin Perez is the favorite for the fifth spot in the Twins' rotation, Gonsalves, along with Adalberto Mejia and Kohl Stewart, could also contend for a starting role if the opportunity were to arise this spring or beyond. He made seven appearances at the Major League level last season.

Gonsalves' first four outings were unsuccessful starts, when he allowed 16 earned runs in 12 1/3 innings of work. However, he did pitch more effectively in his final three outings, when he entered following an opener and allowed only two earned runs in 12 1/3 innings.

But on Gonsalves' last night at home with his family, he wanted no part of it when his dad tried to put on videos of the 24-year-old's performances from last season.

"I wanted to get rid of it and didn't want any bad memories coming into the season," Gonsalves said.

Twins tidbits

• Shortstop Royce Lewis, the Twins' top prospect and the No. 5 prospect in MLB Pipeline's Top 100, doesn't have a timetable for his return after he was sidelined with a strained right oblique on Saturday. Manager Rocco Baldelli isn't concerned about the injury being a long-term concern and still anticipates that Lewis will play in Major League Spring Training games before the end of camp.

"We're still kind of in the evaluation stage and kind of being in the early progressions, physically, in the training room and the weight room," Baldelli said. "In a wait-and-see mode, I guess."

• Switch-hitting infielder Ehire Adrianza, who underwent left shoulder surgery during the offseason, was limited to hitting left-handed at the start of Spring Training, but he was able to hit right-handed in the Twins' victory over the Pirates on Tuesday night, and Baldelli feels no limitations on his ability to slot the infielder into the lineup.

"It is a day-to-day conversation with him to see how he’s feeling and still talking with our medical staff about it," Baldelli said. "But as we sit here right now, I feel comfortable because he seems pretty comfortable with how he feels."

Up next

Mejia will make the start for the Twins in a 5:35 p.m. CT road game against the Rays in Port Charlotte, Fla. With neither Max Kepler nor Jorge Polanco scheduled to play, Adrianza is expected to hit leadoff, with top-25 prospects Alex Kirilloff and Luke Raley also expected to be in the starting lineup.

Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.