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Twins starter Joe Ryan works on new (old?) pitch

FORT MYERS, Fla. — When Twins pitcher Joe Ryan arrived to camp last year, the talk surrounding him was about his revamped slider and his split-change, both of which he had spent the offseason working on. This year, he has a new trick — well, actually an old one that he decided to pick back up again — that he has been working on: a two-seamer.

“When I was at Driveline, (director of pitching Chris) Langin was kind of like, ‘All right, this could be fun, whatever,’ ” Ryan said. “And I kind of took what I knew and what we had learned from some other pitches and applied the reverse concept, and it works and they like it and the team likes it. The hitters don’t seem to like it, so it’s great.”

Ryan, who threw three innings and gave up a solo home run in the Twins’ 7-1 win over the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday at Hammond Stadium, isn’t sure how much he’s going to use the pitch, but he figures to be mixing it in depending on the opposing lineup and whether he needs it on that given day.

An extra weapon for the fourth-year starter could be valuable as Ryan looks to build off of a 2023 season that started off so well before subsequently being interrupted by a groin injury that he tried to pitch through unsuccessfully for more than a month before notifying the Twins.

In the 15 games before the injury, Ryan had a 2.98 earned-run average, and opponents were hitting .203 off him. In the next seven games, opponents hit .336 and he gave up 31 runs in 32 1/3 innings (8.63 earned-run average) before he landed on the injured list. Though he returned for the final month of the 2023 season, he never quite regained his early-season form, finishing the year with a 4.51 ERA in 29 games.

The key to his consistency throughout the full season, his manager Rocco Baldelli said, will be how well he can execute his secondary pitches.

“He has always relied and gone back to that good fastball, the good upshoot fastball that he uses. But you definitely need to keep developing those other pitches and pay a lot of attention to them, and he is. And that’s what he has been spending his (time on in) camp — he did the same thing last year,” said. “He came in with some new pitches. Having those pitches very consistent and under his full command, that’s the important part. So that’s going to be a big part of his success.”

Tinkering around with a pitch he used to throw — Ryan said his dad originally taught him how to throw a two-seamer as a child, and it wasn’t really until high school that he started throwing the four-seam fastball — is exactly how he can accomplish that.

It started with him kind of joking around, he said. And now?

“It’s a great pitch to add to the arsenal,” Ryan said. “I don’t know what that usage looks like throughout the course of the season, but it’s a fun pitch to have in my back pocket when I need it, and it’s a fun pitch to throw.”

Twins make first cuts

The Twins made their first round of cuts on Wednesday, reassigning pitchers Jovani Morán, Randy Dobnak, Ronny Henriquez and Ryan Jenson to minor league camp, as well as catchers Alex Isola and Pat Winkel, infielder Aaron Sabato and outfielder DaShawn Keirsey Jr. None of the eight were on the 40-man roster.

Some, like Morán, who is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, are hurt. Some, Baldelli said, are younger players who they just want to go get the game reps that they need to get ready.

“Henriquez and Jensen, they need to go pitch. They just need to get out there and pitch and work on specific things. It’s harder to do that here,” Baldelli said. “The longer you’re in camp, the longer you think, ‘Well, there’s a chance. I may have an opportunity here to make this club.’ And them working on themselves and their pitches and getting themselves ready is just much more important right now.”

The cuts leave 50 active players in major league camp.

Briefly

Catcher Jair Camargo went 2 for 2 with a walk, a double and a home run in Wednesday’s exhibition game. Camargo, who is on the 40-man roster, is expected to begin the season in Triple-A but would be the first call should something happen to Ryan Jeffers or Christian Vázquez. … The Twins will have Thursday off before returning to action Friday to take on the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton, Fla. Baldelli, father to 2-year-old Louisa and 5-month-old twins Nino and Enzo, said he planned to spend his day “playing with babies.”

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