DUNEDIN, Fla. – Coming off a season where inconsistency was the norm, Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Jose Berrios has been working on a variety of mechanical changes in recent weeks to get back on target.
Berrios was remarkably regular over his first five full-time seasons in the large leagues. He showed flashes of brilliance last yr but was also shelled on just a few occasions.
He posted a 12-7 record with 149 strikeouts but his earned-run average (5.23) was his highest since his rookie season in 2016 with Minnesota.
“I feel we’re in a fantastic spot with where his stuff plays,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said Saturday. “I’ve said it ceaselessly: his track record speaks for itself. We’re comfortable and he’s comfortable with where he’s with every part.
“So just looking forward to an everyday yr out of him really.”
The 28-year-old right-hander has been making each day adjustments at spring training to enhance his movement. He’s working from the centre of the rubber now, pushing more along with his back leg and staying firmer on the glove side while extending his stride.
“I think in myself,” Berrios said. “I’m feeling secure in what I’ve been doing up to now and I’ve been feeling pretty (good). So I’m comfortable and assured.
“Now I just should go on the market and compete and do my thing.”
Berrios, sporting a fresh look with dyed blond hair, arrived in Florida last month to begin preparations for a busy pre-season. He’s slated to represent Puerto Rico at next month’s World Baseball Classic.
The Puerto Rican players dyed their hair blond in 2017 after they reached the WBC final before falling to the US.
“We began early this yr,” he said with a smile. “We at all times do something to create that good chemistry.”
Berrios spent parts of six seasons with the Twins before being dealt to Toronto midway through the 2021 campaign. He signed a seven-year extension price US$131 million with the Blue Jays that fall.
It was the second-richest deal in franchise history behind the $150-million, six-year contract signed by outfielder George Springer earlier that yr.
Berrios is one among 4 locks in Toronto’s starting rotation with ace Alek Manoah, Kevin Gausman and newcomer Chris Bassitt.
“I need to bring more to my team and to the table,” Berrios said. “I’ve been working so hard to get well.”
Berrios lasted just one-third of an inning in his first start last season and was 1-2 with a bloated 7.01 ERA within the month of May.
He delivered a 13-strikeout performance against his former team in early June and followed that with an eight-inning gem against the Detroit Tigers. But he gave up not less than six earned runs over two of his next three starts.
It was the story of his season. Masterful at times, seemingly lost at others.
Berrios said he never gave up through the rough spells and learned lots from the experience.
“Never give more credit to a hitter than they’ve to provide to me,” he said. “Just imagine in myself. I’m Jose Berrios and I’m here because I’ve been doing a whole lot of good things (on the sphere).
“I actually have to still imagine in that and just keep improving (and) I do know I’ll be good at the tip of the day.”
The Puerto Rico team is headlined by Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor and Javier Baez. Canada will play in Pool C at Phoenix from March 11-15 in a bunch with the U.S., Colombia, Great Britain and Mexico.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 18, 2023.
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