Improved Delivery Keys Success For Twins' Watts





MINNEAPOLIS—Righthander Dakota Watts entered pro ball with an entertaining pitching style—until the Twins asked him to throw strikes.

At 6-foot-5 and gangly, Watts would unfold his body on the way to the plate, his right arm finally emerging from behind all those limbs to catapult the baseball at speeds unreachable by most of his peers.

"He's probably our hardest thrower, but he was pretty wild," vice president for player personnel Mike Radcliff said. "He had this flailing, all-arms-and-legs delivery, and he couldn't stay on line. So we asked Rass to take him apart and put him back together."

"Rass" is minor league pitching coordinator Eric Rassmussen, and the result of his tinkering was on display at high Class A Fort Myers, where Watts racked up five saves in five chances during the first three weeks of the season. Through 12 innings, he had collected 10 strikeouts against three walks.

The Twins have fixated on that last tally. The 23-year-old Watts had permitted just 2.3 walks per nine innings this season after issuing them at a liberal rate of 5.6 during his first two pro seasons. Best of all, the reduction had come with the ability to hit 96-98 mph still intact.

"I wouldn't say he has command yet, but he's got the ability to throw strikes," Radcliff said. "He's much more direct to the plate, and gets all that velocity headed in the right direction now. He's begun slowing the ball down some, too, using a slider as a complementary pitch."

Under Rasmussen's direction, Watts, a 16th-round pick in 2007 out of Cal State Stanislaus, made over his mechanics in order to smooth out his delivery and make it repeatable. The overhaul included a radical change that included the way he swings his arm forward, "and some guys have a hard time altering something so fundamental," Radcliff said.

"But he's very, very focused, a hard-working guy. He wasn't considered a prominent guy at acquisition, but he's making a lot of progress in a hurry."

TWIN KILLINGS

• Corner outfielder Rene Tosoni made his big league debut on April 28 by lining a single to right field off the Rays' Jeremy Hellickson. Because of injuries and pitching shortages, the Twins called on seven reinforcements from Triple-A Rochester, a club record for April.

• An uncharacteristic 3-for-25 slump in late April dropped center fielder Ben Revere's average to .194 and his place in the Rochester batting order to eighth. He rebounded to bat 14-for-25 and raise his average to .293.