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Now healthy, Twins prospect Matt Canterino ready to show his progress

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Matt Canterino watched from afar with keen interest as Chris Paddack turned in a pair of dominant playoff performances last October. The two had spent days, weeks, months together, toiling away in the hot Florida summer, putting in hard work as each rehabbed from Tommy John surgery.

“You just feel a lot of joy for somebody like that because you saw how hard he worked, and it gives you a little extra juice to go attack it yourself,” Canterino said.

Now, Canterino, 26, is healthy as well — finally — and is eager to return to the mound and show the Twins what he can do. Drafted in the second round from Rice University in 2019, Canterino has been nothing short of dominant in his minor league career. Problem is, he hasn’t spent much time on the mound since being drafted with the early part of his professional career disrupted by injuries.

In 85 innings as a minor leaguer, Canterino has a 1.48 earned-run average, fanning 130 batters for a staggering 13.8 strikeouts per nine innings. Canterino last pitched at Double-A Wichita in 2022, and if he can stay healthy, he could potentially impact the Twins sooner rather than later.

Canterino was facing hitters in October, throwing live batting practice before heading home for the winter, having a normal offseason and then slowly building back over the summer. Everything, he said, feels like it’s back to normal.

That was the result of a long summer spent in Fort Myers. If he has it his way, he won’t be seeing the Twins’ facility — where they often send rehabbing players — in the summertime ever again.

“I’m not going to lie, I was a little sick of Fort Myers by the end of it all,” he said. “Spring in Florida is a little bit different than August in Florida. It gets a little bit hot. You get tired of sweating.”

While the focus was, of course, on getting his elbow ready to return to action, he set other little goals along the way — working on his stride direction, for example — to keep developing as a pitcher, even if he couldn’t throw in a game.

Paddack, who was going through the process for the second time, was among the group of rehabbing players also at the facility, there with a reassuring word or two, because he remembered how impactful a pair of rehabbing big leaguers — Colin Rea and Robbie Erlin — were when he was going through the process the first time.

“Just passing (it) down to the younger generations, but also me and Matt, we have a lot of things in common,” Paddack said. “He has a really nice changeup. He has a good fastball. Teaching each other ways that we go about things, seeing if it works for him.”

The Twins will build Canterino up as a starter to begin the year, though he’s expected to be on a bit of a pitch count — he’s aiming for three-inning stints to begin with and then they’ll go from there, checking in on his arm, the results and how he’s recovering.

Saturday, he faced teammates during live batting practice at Hammond Stadium. Soon, he’ll face hitters in a game for the first time since July 30, 2022.

It’s been a long time coming.

“I want to be able to stay healthy, and I want to be able to perform well but obviously I have to do the right things in the meantime, so a lot of it is just regaining that trust and I feel I’m in a really good spot with that and I’m just keep on trying to do the right things and see what happens,” Canterino said.

Live BP at the ballpark

Canterino wasn’t the only one throwing live batting practice on Saturday.

Star shortstop Carlos Correa got a look at two of the team’s best arms — ace Pablo López and closer Jhoan Duran. Forest Lake’s Matt Wallner took teammate Brent Headrick deep. Griffin Jax and newly-acquired reliever Justin Topa got their work in.

“A lot of them, their stuff, not only is it not far off from the regular season (but) it’s basically what they’re going to be throwing on Opening Day, many of these guys,” manager Rocco Baldelli said.

Briefly

The Twins’ first full squad workout is set for Sunday, though the weather in Fort Myers might scuttle some of their plans as rain is expected in the area all day. … All 59 of the players expected in camp have arrived.

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