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Jays’ Berrios making mechanical adjustments

DUNEDIN, Fla. – Coming off a season where inconsistency was the norm, Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Jose Berrios has been working on a number of mechanical changes in recent weeks to get back on track.

Berrios was remarkably steady over his first five full-time seasons in the big leagues. He showed flashes of brilliance last year but was also shelled on a few occasions.

He posted a 12-7 record with 149 strikeouts but his earned-run average (5.23) was his highest since his rookie season in 2016 with Minnesota.

“I think we’re in a great spot with where his stuff plays,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said Saturday. “I’ve said it forever: his track record speaks for itself. We’re comfortable and he’s comfortable with where he is with everything.

“So just looking forward to a regular year out of him really.”

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The 28-year-old right-hander has been making daily adjustments at spring training to improve his movement. He’s working from the centre of the rubber now, pushing more with his back leg and staying firmer on the glove side while extending his stride.

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“I believe in myself,” Berrios said. “I’m feeling secure in what I’ve been doing so far and I’ve been feeling pretty (good). So I’m comfortable and confident.

“Now I just have to go out there and compete and do my thing.”

Berrios, sporting a fresh look with dyed blond hair, arrived in Florida last month to start preparations for a busy pre-season. He’s slated to represent Puerto Rico at next month’s World Baseball Classic.

The Puerto Rican players dyed their hair blond in 2017 when they reached the WBC final before falling to the United States.

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“We started early this year,” he said with a smile. “We always do something to create that good chemistry.”

Berrios spent parts of six seasons with the Twins before being dealt to Toronto midway through the 2021 campaign. He signed a seven-year extension worth US$131 million with the Blue Jays that fall.

It was the second-richest deal in franchise history behind the $150-million, six-year contract signed by outfielder George Springer earlier that year.

Berrios is one of four locks in Toronto’s starting rotation with ace Alek Manoah, Kevin Gausman and newcomer Chris Bassitt.

“I want to bring more to my team and to the table,” Berrios said. “I’ve been working so hard to get better.”

Berrios lasted just one-third of an inning in his first start last season and was 1-2 with a bloated 7.01 ERA in the month of May.

He delivered a 13-strikeout performance against his former team in early June and followed that with an eight-inning gem against the Detroit Tigers. But he gave up at least six earned runs over two of his next three starts.

It was the story of his season. Masterful at times, seemingly lost at others.

Berrios said he never gave up during the rough spells and learned a lot from the experience.

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“Never give more credit to a hitter than they have to give to me,” he said. “Just believe in myself. I’m Jose Berrios and I’m here because I’ve been doing a lot of good things (on the field).

“I have to still believe in that and just keep improving (and) I know I’ll be good at the end of the day.”

The Puerto Rico team is headlined by Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor and Javier Baez. Canada will play in Pool C at Phoenix from March 11-15 in a group with the U.S., Colombia, Great Britain and Mexico.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 18, 2023.

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

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