Twins' David Festa adds muscle in attempt to add to innings

FORT MYERS, FLA. – As Twins pitching prospect David Festa nears a potential major league debut, his offseason work in the weight room meant just as much to him as anything he did during winter bullpen sessions.

The way Festa sees it, he could stand to add some muscle. Listed at 6-6, 185 pounds, the righthander wants to be more prepared to last through a six-month season and he wants to throw more innings after he pitched 103 in 2022 and 92 last year.

Adding velocity wasn't a top priority, Festa said, but it could be a nice side effect. Festa's fastball sat in the 94-96 mph range when he faced Twins hitters in a live batting practice session Tuesday.

"It's sort of tough for me to do certain exercises given my height and narrowness," said Festa, a 13th-round draft pick in 2021. "Just making sure the lifts I'm doing have a point to them, and ultimately allow me to recover better and feel good throughout the season."

Festa is arguably the top pitching prospect in the Twins organization. He pitched in the MLB Futures Game last summer and finished the season at Class AAA St. Paul. FanGraphs rated him as the sport's 97th-best prospect.

He yielded a 4.19 ERA in 24 outings last year with one of the highest starter strikeout rates in the Class AA Texas League (11.7 per nine innings).

"My strikeouts went up, so I was definitely happy with that," Festa said. "I feel like my stuff is in a really good spot. I just think something I can control is limiting the walks at this point."

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Festa, who walked nine batters in his final 12 1/3 innings, is expected to return to St. Paul, but he serves as important starting depth. In his first major league camp, he realized how close he was to the big leagues when manager Rocco Baldelli gave a speech before the first full-squad workout.

"Being around these guys, it really keeps you motivated and makes you feel like you're right there," he said.

Mamba Mentality

It doesn't take long to figure out Kobe Bryant was DaShawn Keirsey Jr.'s favorite athlete. The Twins outfielder, a nonroster invitee to camp, has "Mamba Mentality" stitched across his glove in yellow and the motto is tattooed on his back.

Keirsey, who finished last year at Class AAA, wasn't permitted to have "Mamba Mentality" engraved onto his wooden bats, so it says KB24 above his name, referencing Bryant's jersey number with the Los Angeles Lakers.

"Seeing someone have that kind of work ethic, it kind of inspired me throughout my years in college and pro ball," said Keirsey, whose dad is a big Lakers fan. "I think it's just the way you live your life always trying to be better and to strive for something."

The lefthanded-hitting center fielder is a longshot to break camp with the Twins, but he hit .294 with 15 homers and 61 RBI in 130 games between Class AA and Class AAA last year, adding 39 stolen bases in 44 attempts.

"I used to watch a bunch of [Kobe's] videos before games and just listen to him talk," Keirsey said. "I feel like he put me at ease and put me into a different game mode."