Jays’ Jose Berrios returns to Minnesota to face ex-mates

Field Level Media

September 24, 2021 at 6:34 am.

Jose Berrios has made 63 career starts at Target Field in Minneapolis. However, Friday night will mark his first as a visiting player when the 27-year-old right-hander takes the mound for the Toronto Blue Jays against the Minnesota Twins.

Berrios (12-8, 3.45 ERA), a two-time All-Star and a first-round pick in the 2012 draft by the Twins, was traded to Toronto on July 30 for a pair of highly touted minor league prospects, infielder/outfielder Austin Martin and right-handed pitcher Simeon Woods Richardson.

In 64 career appearances at Target Field, including one relief outing, Berrios is 32-20 with a 3.59 ERA.

He admitted to taking a sentimental stroll to the stadium from the team hotel before Thursday night’s series opener, which the Twins won 7-2. Berrios also was the subject of a video tribute on the scoreboard before the game.

Still, with the Blue Jays (85-68) one game behind the New York Yankees (86-67) in a competitive race for the second American League wild card, he said it will be all business when he takes the mound Friday night.

“Every game counts to try and get to that postseason spot,” Berrios said Thursday, “but (the location) doesn’t matter. This is going to be special for me to come back here to Minnesota and face them again. It’s emotional, but it’s my work, so I have to go out and do my work.”

It’s the same philosophy that Berrios used on Sunday in Toronto when he faced his old team for the first time, allowing three runs on four hits while striking out six over 6 2/3 innings in a 5-3 victory.

“I felt like I was playing back in Puerto Rico in my backyard, with a lot of friends,” Berrios said afterward. “I’ve known them a long time. I enjoyed this day a lot.”

Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said, “He’s a competitive person, but obviously, he knows he’s facing people he’s very close to, people he has relationships with and people he has known forever. It’s not an easy thing to do, go out there and completely stay focused. … (He) was still able to focus, and he threw a good game.”

With the Yankees opening a three-game series in Boston and the red-hot Seattle Mariners (84-69) just a game behind Toronto in the wild-card race, the Blue Jays will need a big start from Berrios.

“(Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo) always says that momentum is the next day’s starter, and we love that Jose is out there against these guys again,” said John Schneider, who was the Blue Jays’ acting manager for Montoyo on Thursday night.

Montoyo was serving a one-game suspension for his role in Wednesday afternoon’s fracas at Tampa Bay. The Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier was hit in the back with a pitch by Ryan Borucki as part of apparent retribution for taking catcher Alejandro Kirk’s scouting card that fell on the ground during a play at the plate Monday.

Minnesota (68-85), which has won three in a row, will start 6-foot-9 rookie right-hander Bailey Ober (2-3, 4.34 ERA) on Friday.

Ober will making his second career start against the Blue Jays. He took the loss Saturday in a 6-2 defeat at Toronto. He allowed four runs, including a three-run homer by Teoscar Hernandez and a solo shot by Marcus Semien, on four hits in four innings.

Blue Jays outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is day-to-day after his right hand was injured in a freak accident Thursday.

Teammate Randal Grichuk, who was making a throw home after fielding Mitch Garver’s fifth-inning double into the gap in left-center, stepped on Gurriel’s hand. Gurriel, who was ducking down and had his hand flat on the ground when Grichuk stepped on it on his follow-through, needed two stitches to close a cut on his right middle finger. X-rays of the hand were negative.