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From Johan to Jhoan: Twins great helping Twins closer with curveball

FORT MYERS, Fla. - The most famous Johan in Twins history stood next to the increasingly popular Jhoan near the Twins' bullpen on Sunday, each of them gripping a baseball and showing their grip to each other.

Jhoan Duran, the Twins' closer, was asked the obvious and intriguing question: Are you learning to throw Johan Santana's Hall-of-Fame-worthy changeup to go with your 103-mph fastball?

"No, no, no," Duran said with a laugh. "I don't want a changeup."

The conference had a more urgent purpose, though. Duran believes he's been subtly letting hitters know when a curveball is coming, by the way he grips the ball in his glove.

"I did it last game," Duran said. "I am working on [not] tipping my curveball, so I do a little [consultation] with him."

The curveball has been a special emphasis for Duran this spring, because the righthander said he is having trouble throwing it for strikes. At its best, Duran's curve is his most difficult pitch to hit, even harder than the triple-digit fastball.

Hitters managed only 11 hits in 69 at-bats when they put Duran's curveball in play last year, a .159 average (and .286 slugging percentage) that's even better than their .212 average against the fastball. And they swung and missed 45.9 percent of the time against the curve, compared to 35.8 percent against the fastball.

"My curveball is not good" right now, Duran said. "That's why I'm working here [with Santana], because I want it ready for the season.