Twins deliver ode to 'great guy' Berríos

August 1st, 2021

ST. LOUIS -- In parting ways with José Berríos at Friday's Trade Deadline, the Twins lost much more than a front-of-rotation pitcher who had anchored their staff for the better part of six seasons.

Berríos' move to Toronto also marked the end of a pitching development success story that proved rare in the last decade of Twins baseball, during which the right-hander's rigorous work ethic and focused, but endearing, personality made a lasting impression on many of his longtime teammates -- old and new -- who had a tough time watching one of the recent faces of the franchise say his farewells.

That was doubly the case for those closest to him, like Jorge Polanco and Miguel Sanó, who came up through the Minors together with Berríos, or for club interpreter Elvis Martinez, who grew closest to Berríos in their three-plus seasons together.

"They all came up together, so it wasn't just tough for me, but it was tough for all of them, too," Martinez said. "But at the same time, I think all of us that stayed, including myself, we’re kind of happy for him because he’s going to have the opportunity to go and play for a ring, and he also deserves that."

A day before Berríos' first start in a Blue Jays uniform Sunday, Polanco described how tough it was to say goodbye after nearly a decade together, starting when Berríos was selected in the first round of the 2012 MLB Draft. In that time, the right-hander matured from a teenager to an adult, had three children and went from top prospect under a microscope to leader of a pitching staff.

More than anything, Berríos' family-oriented attitude -- he frequently had his two young sons, Sebastian and Diego, around the clubhouse and loved talking about his on-field encounters with brother-in-law Javier Báez -- and tireless work ethic never wavered.

"He's always been a great guy," Polanco said. "He never changed that. He just grew as a man and as a player. But he's always been the same guy."

"He basically grew here," Martinez said. "He matured as a person and as a player, so I think he meant a lot for the organization."

And though the Twins eventually had Berríos dial back some of his intense offseason activity in an effort to help maintain his stamina throughout the season, that work ethic served as a significant example in the Minnesota clubhouse -- alongside that of departed club leader Nelson Cruz -- and made a big impression on the younger players who began their MLB journeys over the last few seasons.

In fact, Luis Arraez revealed that Berríos would go out of his way to seek out Minor Leaguers in the organization to make his mark even before they arrived in the big leagues.

"I mean, José in Fort Myers [where the Twins hold Spring Training], he just always came to visit Minor League players," Arraez said. "Like, when I saw José, he’s like an amazing example because he works hard, he works hard. He’s coming here to enjoy baseball."

Sure, the 4.08 ERA across six seasons, the durability on the mound, the consistency and the high-end upside will be missed -- but Berríos' joyful presence, the leadership he grew into and the relationships he developed with coaches, executives, fans and teammates will leave a far larger mark as he forges his next chapter.

"He told me to keep going with my job and play the game hard and never stop and put my head up and try to do the best that I can every day," Sanó said. "Berríos is a big part of that team. Great guy. Great teammate and person. Those are the people we love to see here."

"We’re here for the baseball, but you stay for the people like José Berríos," manager Rocco Baldelli said. "He is just a magnificent young man in every way. He’s inspiring. He keeps you going and motivated with everything he does, with his personality and character and the way he shows up to the ballgame every day. Those are the things you miss."

Baldelli responds to Shoemaker comments

It's undoubtedly been a tough year for veteran right-hander Matt Shoemaker, who pitched to an 8.06 ERA in 16 appearances for the Twins, including 11 starts, before he was designated for assignment and ultimately outrighted to Triple-A St. Paul earlier this season.

Shoemaker has since turned his season around, with a 1.80 ERA and 17 strikeouts in four Triple-A outings since his demotion -- and in a report by the St. Paul Pioneer Press from Thursday, Shoemaker expressed his sentiment that the Twins' suggestions for his pitching led to his lack of success in the big leagues.

"I'm pitching the opposite of how the Twins wanted me to pitch,” Shoemaker said to the Pioneer Press. "And this is not a bashing of the Twins. The Twins wanted to get more out of me in Spring Training -- I understand that -- but unfortunately, it failed miserably. Because we’re not all robots, we're individual people."

Pitching coach Wes Johnson and the Twins' staff have accounted for several success stories since they took over in 2019, with players like Ryne Harper, Matt Wisler, Tyler Duffey and Trevor May reaching newfound success in Minnesota over the last two seasons. This season, of course, has been a different story, with free-agent acquisitions Shoemaker, J.A. Happ, Hansel Robles and Alex Colomé all struggling as part of the club's fall from contention.

Still, Baldelli affirmed his trust in his coaching staff and pushed back against Shoemaker's assertions.

"Our staff here, our pitching guys, they're very good at what they do. And I have complete faith that there is a way to get to every one of the pitchers that we have," Baldelli said.

"I think Matt could have certainly expressed himself in a better fashion," he added. "I think there are more productive ways to do that than what he chose to do. I think we live and learn and we move forward. I think that's our goal right now."