Berríos keeps kids in mind while leading Twins

CHICAGO – José Berríos has emerged as the ace of the Twins’ pitching staff. The 25-year-old Bayamón native is becoming one of the top starters in the American League. While in the thick of a pennant race, Berríos continues to lead on and off the field.

Berríos is a proud Puerto Rican who loves his family and is fighting to improve the lives children.

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Kids First

Berríos has two sons and a daughter. His children were in attendance with his wife and in-laws when he took the mound in Chicago against the White Sox last week.

“It’s a great opportunity to pitch in front of my family,” he said. “It feels great, especially when you do well. I love when they come out and watch me in a different city.”

It isn’t only about his own kids, however.

Earlier this season Berríos announced “The La MaKina Strikeout Challenge.” He will donate $50 for each strikeout he records to Fundación CAP, a non-profit that has worked with children battling cancer in Puerto Rico for 30 years.

“Puerto Rico is in my heart every pitch I throw,” he said in the release announcing the Challenge. “The people at home in Puerto Rico are my biggest inspiration and none more this year than the children at Hospital Pediátrico.

“I visited them this past offseason and was moved to do my part to help Fundación CAP, which benefits children with cancer at the Hospital Pediátrico. I want to thank you all for joining me in my strikeout challenge for this great cause.”

Berríos striking out opponents has helped the Twins take hold of first place in the American League Central division. Earlier this year Berríos became the first pitcher in Twins history to strike out 500 batters in his first 91 appearances.

The Twins are showing the club’s appreciation by making a donation in support of Berríos’ program throughout the season.

Berríos also held a youth baseball camp in his hometown with Cleveland’s Trevor Bauer and Cubs shortstop Javier Báez, who is Berríos’ brother-in-law.

“It’s awesome to see these guys at the top of the game,” outfielder Eddie Rosario said. “The most fun part is that they’re family and they’ve known each other and played with each other since they were little kids.”

Chasing the Dream

Berríos started against Lucas Giolito in Chicago, one of the 13 pitchers selected before him in the 2012 draft. Minnesota’s ace earned his ninth victory of the season and struck out eight, meaning another $400 donation to The La MaKina Strikeout Challenge.

“It’s extra motivation to strike someone out to help someone else,” he said.

Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said Berríos throwing seven quality innings was exactly what the team needed after a tough series against the Yankees. Baldelli noted Berríos has emerged as a leader on the Twins because of his ability to battle to give the team tough innings when needed.

Berríos is a no-nonsense pitcher when it’s his day to start. Easy going in the clubhouse before the game, his focus is on the game once it begins. He works quickly, hustling to the mound to warm up before the bottom half of each inning. That’s his style.

“I enjoy when José is on the mound watching him pitch,” veteran starter Martín Pérez said. “You can see on his face when he’s on the mound that he’s confident he can win the game. He likes to compete and win.

“When you have a good team like us, that’s what you need, more pitchers who want to win and who want to do something special every five days.”

Pérez, who is in his eighth season in the big leagues, is impressed with Berríos’ desire to learn. The two talk constantly during Berríos’ starts about mechanics, pitch selection and situations that arise.

That willingness to communicate has helped Berríos lead the Twins’ staff. His work ethic is also something his teammates notice.

“How he prepares himself and his body to pitch every five days is amazing,” Pérez said. “He’s a machine. He’s always working on his body and doing stuff with his arm to be ready to pitch every five days.”

Berríos was a member of the Los Rubios team at the 2017 World Baseball Classic with Báez, Rosario and veterans like Yadier Molina. The group formed a unique bond that carried over into the 2018 All-Star Game. This summer Berríos became only the fifth Puerto Rican pitcher to appear in multiple All-Star Game.

“I’ve played with him the last four years,” Rosario said with a smile. “He competes and works hard. He’s a really good pitcher and he’s from Puerto Rico, too.”