ST. LOUIS — Elvis Martinez had been there before to help deliver the news that a beloved member of the Twins organization was being traded away.
Martinez, the Twins’ team interpreter, was there in 2018, when popular infielder Eduardo Escobar received the life-changing news.
But it paled in comparison to his experience on Friday, when he went, with manager Rocco Baldelli, to meet José Berríos in his hotel room to tell the pitcher that he was on his way to Toronto.
Like Berríos, Martinez grew up in Puerto Rico. The two could often be found side by side, regarding each other not just as player and interpreter, but family.
“He meant a lot, not just for me but I know he meant a lot for a lot of people in the clubhouse,” Martinez said. “Most of this team like Byron Buxton and Tyler Duffey and Taylor Rogers, Luis Arraez, they basically all came up together. Jorge Polanco. Miguel Sanó. They all came up together, so it wasn’t just tough for me, but it was tough for all of them, too.”
Indeed, the all-star starter’s departure was one that hit hard within the Twins’ clubhouse — and will continue to do so, as the Twins deal with the absence of not only their top starter, but a teammate, friend, mentor and so much more.
Berríos was drafted 32th overall by the Twins in 2012. By 2016, he had latched onto of a spot in the Twins’ rotation. As a member of the Twins, he grew from a young man into a father of three; from a top prospect to an all-star.
“I grew up with him,” Polanco said. “We played together since we both signed here in Minnesota. I don’t know how to say it, man. You’re going to lose, but you see your brother go to another team, and it’s really tough.”
For Arraez, Berríos was “an amazing,” example, primarily through his work ethic, as he made his way through the minor league system years later. Even after he reached the majors, Arraez said Berríos would come to visit the minor league side of the complex in Fort Myers, Fla. to speak with prospects.
For all the praise you might hear about José Berríos the player — which, around the Twins, is a lot — you’ll hear even more about José Berríos the person.
And that’s what makes the trade even harder to deal with inside the Twins’ clubhouse.
“You certainly miss him on the mound, you certainly miss the contributions that he has made to this team on the field. Undoubtedly you miss those things,” Baldelli said. “But the things that mean a lot to all of us in the dugout and in this organization, is knowing that he does those things, but the person behind all those accomplishments is someone that you just love to be around and love to know and call a friend.”
Baldelli responds to Shoemaker comments
Earlier in the week, former Twins pitcher Matt Shoemaker — who was designated for assignment in July and is now pitching for the Triple-A Saints — made waves when he told the Pioneer Press he having success “pitching the opposite of how the Twins wanted me to pitch.”
Shoemaker, whom the Twins signed to a one-year deal this offseason, had an 8.06 earned-run average and a career high 1.657 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) before he was eventually DFA’d.
“This is not a bashing of the Twins,” Shoemaker said. “The Twins wanted to get more out of me in spring training — I understand that — but unfortunately it failed miserable. Because we’re not all robots, we’re individual people.”
Those comments made their way back to the Twins coaching staff in St. Louis, where Baldelli said he thought Shoemaker “could have certainly expressed himself in a better fashion.”
“Matt is a strong-minded guy. He has a lot of thoughts on a lot of different things,” Baldelli said. “He’s focused most of his energy here on simply going out there and pitching. Our staff here, our pitching guys, they’re very good at what they do. … Our guys are going to find all of the different ways to connect and get the most of out of all of our pitchers.”
Third baseman Josh Donaldson was out of the lineup for the third straight day as he deals with hamstring tightness.