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Red Wings' Berrios strikes out 12

Twins' top pitching prospect goes seven innings in shutout win
August 26, 2015

After a dominant effort for Triple-A Rochester on Wednesday night, Jose Berrios was diplomatic when asked about a potential big league debut next week.

"I feel a little bit excited," he said. "But for now, I do what I can do -- pitch. I don't think about much else. I try to do my work and stay healthy."

Asked about his goals, however, the 21-year-old right-hander said he'd like to pitch for the Twins before the season ends. After recording a season-high 12 strikeouts and allowing three hits over seven scoreless innings, Minnesota's top pitching prospect could achieve that goal when Major League rosters expand on Tuesday.

Twins general manager Terry Ryan was on hand at NBT Bank Stadium to watch Berrios and the Red Wings beat Syracuse, 6-0. It's unclear if an innings limit will impact the decision to call up the Puerto Rico native, who's at 155 1/3 innings after throwing 140 last year and 103 2/3 in 2013.

"Now, late in the season, sometimes the body feels tired, but I don't think about that," Berrios said. "I just do my work every game."

He certainly hasn't shown signs of fatigue. MLB.com's No. 23 overall prospect issued one walk and threw 98 pitches on Wednesday, lowering his ERA with the Red Wings to 2.78. Last time out on Aug. 21, he struck out 10 and allowed five hits and one run over seven innings. Two starts ago, he took a no-hitter into the seventh.

Berrios (4-2) has 73 strikeouts and a .219 opponents' batting average of 64 2/3 innings in 10 International League starts. He was 8-3 with a 3.08 ERA and 92 strikeouts over 90 2/3 innings in 15 starts for Double-A Chattanooga before a promotion.

Berrios became the highest drafted Puerto Rican pitcher ever when the Twins selected him 32nd overall in 2012. He pitched in the World Baseball Classic that year, finished last year at Triple-A at the age of 20 and has started the last two Futures Games.

What makes Berrios a top prospect is what has allowed him to pitch so well his last two outings: command of a mid-90s fastball, a hard curveball that could be considered a slurve and a changeup. He said his curveball was especially good on Wednesday.

Berrios had five clean innings against the Chiefs, retiring the last 10 batters he faced. Nationals No. 22 prospect Matt Skole had two of the three hits against Berrios, reaching third base with nobody out in the third on Matt den Dekker's double. Berrios induced a soft liner to third, then recorded back-to-back strikeouts to end the threat.

The 2014 MiLB.com Organization All-Star said he attacked Syracuse all night with all three of his pitches and benefited from good defense. As for the second-inning jam, he said concentration was the key.

"I try to use my mind, not just my body."

Berrios said he was unaware that Ryan was in attendance until after the game, when the two exchanged greetings in the clubhouse. If the call were to come, it would complete a dream several years in the making.

"When I was 4 years old, I started playing baseball and loved it. When I was 13, I thought I could be a professional player and someday play in the Majors," Berrios said.

Michael Tonkin and A.J. Achter finished off Rochester's 19th shutout of the season, the most by an International League team since Tidewater had 21 in 1975. The Red Wings pitching staff also includes Twins Top 30 prospects Alex Meyer, Taylor Rogers and Logan Darnell, with Tyler Duffey returning to the Majors earlier this month.

Danny Santana and James Beresford each had three of Rochester's 13 hits, while Kennys Vargas and Oswaldo Arcia homered.

Andrew Kahn is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewKahn.