FORT MYERS, FLA. — There will be no surprises when it comes to the Twins’ starting pitcher on Opening Day.
Manager Rocco Baldelli said Monday that righthander Jose Berrios will get the ball for the Twins’ first game of the season on March 28 against Cleveland at Target Field. It will be the first time in his three-plus big-league seasons that Berrios gets the honor.
“Truthfully, we were all very happy to give him that news,” said Baldelli, the Twins’ first-year manager, following a spring training loss to Baltimore at Hammond Stadium. “I think he was also happy to hear it. He’s earned it, he’s a wonderful guy and I was happy to see him so excited.”
Berrios, 24, went 12-11 with a 3.84 earned-run average last season in 32 starts and was named to the American League All-Star team. Berrios also had two complete games and one shutout. His first start in 2018 came in the Twins’ third game of the season against Baltimore. He gave up no runs and three hits in pitching a complete game in a 7-0 victory over the Orioles.
Jake Odorizzi got the Opening Day assignment for the Twins last season, in part because then-Twins manager Paul Molitor wanted Berrios to be able to pitch against Cleveland in an April series in Puerto Rico. Berrios, who is from Bayamon, Puerto Rico, would not have been on schedule to pitch in his home country if he had gotten the Opening Day start.
Baldelli said he delivered the news to Berrios on Monday after discussing matters with the Twins’ staff. That conversation did not take long. “We definitely talk about this as a group … to hear different opinions, but in this instance there wasn’t a ton of discussion,” Baldelli said. “Everyone was basically just happy for him because I think everyone feels, not just comfortable with it, but is excited for him and for us.”
While baseball is a changing game, Baldelli acknowledged the Opening Day assignment remains important to pitchers.
“It means a lot to me because I know it means a lot to the players,” Baldelli said. “Just with the conversation today with Jose, and knowing in the past the way some of these conversations do go and the way the off seasons are spent thinking about who is going to pitch the first game. It is definitely a badge of honor and it is definitely something that is very meaningful. I think it makes a lot of sense. Anything that’s meaningful to any guy out in that room should be meaningful to the staff as well. We treat it very seriously and we do think about it a lot.”