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Notes: Berríos sizzles in debut; Pineda throws

@dohyoungpark
February 23, 2020

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- At some point every spring, the media knows to gather around José Berríos to ask him about his goals for the season. The ambitious right-hander usually lays out some milestones for wins, strikeouts or innings pitched in a notebook that he keeps with him -- tangible

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- At some point every spring, the media knows to gather around José Berríos to ask him about his goals for the season. The ambitious right-hander usually lays out some milestones for wins, strikeouts or innings pitched in a notebook that he keeps with him -- tangible markers of success that are easy for him to track.

This time, the goal he revealed wasn't so predicated on counting stats.

"I always have big goals for myself," Berríos said. "So one of the most important for me right now is to be fresh and strong from the first day to day 162. That’s for me. And we want to make the playoffs as a team."

Even with all the focus on massage, flexibility and pacing Berríos through the season to make sure that he is able to sustain his performance through the second half, manager Rocco Baldelli didn't mind seeing his ace consistently light up the radar gun at 95 mph in Berríos' first appearance of the spring on Sunday.

"It’s just a sign that he’s in great shape, more than anything else," Baldelli said. "His body and arm are obviously feeling really good right now. And that’s where we want to be at this point of the spring. He prepares very well. He doesn’t come into camp with a ways to go to get back into shape to make those starts. He almost comes into camp ready to pitch."

Berríos threw 16 of his 28 pitches for strikes in two scoreless innings as he started the Twins' 5-5 tie with the Blue Jays. He allowed one hit and struck out four batters before he threw some more in the bullpen behind the third-base line to complete his day's work.

His focus this spring has been in transferring his weight more efficiently between his legs and shortening his arm action to add consistency to his release point, and Berrios reported that he was pleased with the improvements in his hips, and in the command and movement of his fastball, curveball and changeup.

Pineda throws side session
Michael Pineda beamed with excitement after he threw another side session of around 20 pitches on Sunday. Covered in beads of sweat, Pineda animatedly recapped his session with several coaches and said he felt "great" as he walked to the clubhouse.

His changeup and slider took a while to feel good last season as Pineda returned from a long absence from the field, but they appear to be working more effectively early this spring.

"Last year, I came off the Tommy John surgery and it took a little bit for the pitches, the command, everything to be there," Pineda said. "They took a little bit of time, and at the end of the season, they felt pretty good. My slider especially was working better. This year is a new year. I'm working out to be ready with hopefully everything working good."

While other starters like Randy Dobnak and Devin Smeltzer have been throwing 30-40 pitches on game days, Pineda needs to serve the final 39 games of his suspension to open the regular season and has no urgency to stretch himself out. Baldelli said the Twins will work on some conditioning with Pineda's body and legs as he throws in Minor League games before a ramp-up to his personal "Opening Day" in mid-May.

"It's exciting when you're seeing everything that's happening right now, when I see my team is excited to see me and I feel pretty good," Pineda said. "So I said, 'Well, I want to go back to my teammates. We had a really good team last year, and this is the most fun I've had, ever. I wanted to go back.' I'm excited to be here for two more years."

Odds and ends
• Nelson Cruz will play in Monday's game against the Red Sox, Baldelli said on Sunday. Cruz was struck in the left wrist by an errant pitch during batting practice on Wednesday.

Up next
There should be plenty of excitement at Hammond Stadium on Monday afternoon as newly acquired starter Kenta Maeda makes his Twins debut against the cross-town rival Red Sox at 12:05 p.m. CT. Major League bullpen centerpieces Tyler Duffey and Trevor May are also expected to pitch, along with Matt Wisler and Blaine Hardy. Watch live on FOX Sports North or MLB.TV or listen to the Treasure Island Baseball Network.

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