TORONTO — Life as a Blue Jay is fun, thrilling, pressure-packed, competitive — but ultimately kind of lonely, Jose Berrios says.
“My kids started school,” so they’re back in Puerto Rico, the former Twins righthander (and father of three) said. “They’ve got an iPad. They call me. But it’s not the same.”
Of course, neither is finding himself in the heart of a postseason chase, helping one of baseball’s hottest teams — Toronto is 16-3 since Aug. 28, with Berrios going 3-0 during that streak — try to hold on to one of the American League’s wild-card spots. Berrios said he still follows the scores of the last-place Twins, but likes the idea of pitching in the postseason for the third straight year and fourth time in his career.
And he’ll try to do his part on Sunday, against a lot of familiar faces. Berrios left his start against the Rays after seven innings Tuesday with abdominal tightness, but Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo confirmed Friday that Berrios will start on rotation in the series finale against the Twins.
It’s a mission that at first Berrios said he doesn’t relish — but he grew more intrigued as he discussed it.
“They used to be my guys, but now they’re in a different dugout,” Berrios said. “It’s going to be fun with any guys, because we’ve been part of the same team since 2012, most of those guys, so we’ll see.”
Berrios’ Toronto debut, two days after the Twins traded the first first-round pick for a pair of highly regarded prospects, was a rousing success, six shutout innings against the Royals. But the Jays lost his next four starts, and deposited a 6.38 ERA, leaving Jays fans to grumble about their new starter.
“It took about a month” before he felt relaxed and comfortable in his new home, Berrios said, since he knew so few players with his new team and felt such pressure to perform. “Different culture and without [my] family. … They made it easier for me to get here and try to get used to it because of the way they like to have fun out there. I’ve enjoyed it so far.”
It shows. Berrios has posted a 1.98 ERA in his past four starts.
“He’s been throwing the ball good. There’s always that feeling of what to do, what to say” when you face a former teammate, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “But as soon as the action starts, all of that goes to the side and everyone tries to win. It’ll be fun. I’m glad he’s pitching.”
Simmons stays in U.S.
Andrelton Simmons didn’t come to Canada for the Twins’ weekend series, because he wants to stay in the United States. Permanently, more or less.
“He’s right in the middle of the process of applying for U.S. citizenship,” Baldelli explained, and leaving the country before that’s done could delay his approval or even reset the process. The Twins knew of the situation, and “some energy was spent trying to avoid it, but we couldn’t,” Baldelli said. “So he’ll be down for three days.”
On the restricted list, technically. Simmons was removed from the roster, a timely absence since Brent Rooker returned from the paternity list on Friday, too.
Jorge Polanco started in Simmons’ spot on Friday and committed two errors during the Blue Jays’ two-run rally in the second inning. Nick Gordon will also start at least one of this weekend’s games at shortstop, Baldelli said.
Etc.Righthander Nick Vincent, a 10-year veteran who appeared in two games for the Twins last month, was recalled from Class AAA St. Paul and added to the Twins’ bullpen for this series. Andrew Albers was returned to St. Paul to make room for Vincent.Mitch Garver will catch on Friday and Sunday for St. Paul, and serve as the designated hitter on Saturday, the start and perhaps conclusion of a rehab assignment as he returns from a lower back strain. If he shows no strain from the workload, he could meet the Twins in Chicago next week.Joe Ryan, hit on the hand by a line drive Tuesday, is tentatively scheduled to start against the Cubs on Wednesday, Baldelli said. He’s had soreness but will throw this weekend and should avoid the injured list.