CLEVELAND — Colorful banners line the fences at Play Ball Park in downtown Cleveland, a central hub for major league baseball’s All-Star Week festivities. Printed on those banners, there are photos of all-stars from varying teams.
On the Minnesota Twins’ poster? A close-up of Eddie Rosario’s face next to a shot of Jose Berrios in action. The posters were likely printed well in advance of the week, and Rosario many expected, would be spending his week in Cleveland.
Rosario isn’t the only Twin who performed up to all-star standards but was snubbed when it came time for roster reveals. In the end, after Berrios was added to the roster as an injury replacement, the Twins wound up with three, fewer than many expected for a team with the fourth-best record in baseball.
For Berrios, a two-time all-star, and Jorge Polanco and Jake Odorizzi, who both received a nod for the first time, it’s been an exciting, whirlwind experience.
“It’s more easy,” Berrios said of his second trip. “I still feel like a kid, but this year, I know what I need to do and I feel more relaxed.”
His inclusion on the roster came after Odorizzi was placed on the injured list with a blister, though many were surprised his selection didn’t come sooner. At the break, Berrios boasts a 3.00 earned-run average, which is ninth among major league starters and fourth among American League starters, making his initial exclusion a head scratcher. Berrios has struck out 104 batters in 117 innings.
“My view of it is he probably should’ve been selected the first time around, but the fact that he’s an injury replacement is just fine as well,” Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said. “He’s got so much ability. He’s continued to get better as a pitcher. I think he still has continued growth left in his approach, too, and that’ll be fun to watch and be a part of going forward.”
During his first trip to the Midsummer Classic, Berrios said he was a bit too shy. His goal for the second time around was to branch out a bit more, talking to more players. He had his sights set on meeting Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia, who is retiring at the end of the season and will be honored in Cleveland.
While Berrios, who pitched in last year’s All-Star Game, hopes to pitch Tuesday, Odorizzi will not have that same chance. Had he stayed healthy, he likely would have pitched Sunday and would have been ruled out of the game regardless.
Still, he’s had the chance to soak in the atmosphere and participate in the rest of the activities, a reward for a career-best first half. The right-hander finished off his first half with a 3.15 ERA. At one point, he won 10 straight decisions. During the month of May, he allowed just three earned runs in 28 2/3 innings, good for a 0.94 ERA.
“These last couple (starts) for me have been a little bit more difficult than the first whatever have been, but that’s what it’s going to be. It’s not going to be no runs given up the entire year,” Odorizzi said. “There’s going to be low points, there’s going to be high points. I want to be in that consistent range where I want the team to know every time I take the ball, we have a great chance of winning that day and that’s me doing my job.”
That has been the case all season, and the Twins expect it to continue in the second half. Though Odorizzi missed his last start of the first half with the blister, he said he threw recently, is “pretty much healed,” and should be good to go for the second half.
Then there’s the one Twin who will definitely appear in the All-Star Game. Polanco was voted in to start by fans after leading both rounds of fan voting; he will hit ninth for the AL.
After beginning last season with an 80-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs, Polanco slashed .288/.345/.427. The front office rewarded him with a contract extension this spring.
Polanco has rewarded them back.
“I think we knew he had the ability to be an excellent shortstop. We felt he could be in the top-tier of the American League and certainly now has gone and done it and … is now starting an All-Star Game which is really a credit to all the work he’s put in, the scouts, development staff, everyone that’s been around him,” Falvey said. “It’s been fun to watch his growth and maturity as a player.”
The shortstop headed into the All-Star Game hitting .312/.368/.514. If those numbers stick, they would all be career highs. He has already tied his career high with 13 home runs and has been a constant in a Twins lineup that has dealt with injuries around him.
“I feel great. It’s a great honor to pay them back for the trust they deposited in me,” Polanco said. “I’m going to continue to playing hard and be happy doing it because that’s the way you get good results.”