Twins' Gutierrez Learns New Pitch To Further Dream





MINNEAPOLIS—Righthander Carlos Gutierrez looked to his left and to his right before he spoke, as though afraid an opposing hitter might overhear his secret.

"I'm pretty excited about this year. I've actually been working on a cutter," he said. "It's still new. I'm not going to say it's ready yet, but it's coming along."

Gutierrez, a first-round pick from Miami in 2008, is hoping that one more pitch makes the difference between filling a vacancy in the big league bullpen and spending another summer with Triple-A Rochester.

The 25-year-old's progress through the Twins system has been slowed by wildness. His fastball sits at 96 mph and ranges higher, but last season he walked 31 batters and hit three more in 62 innings out of the Red Wings bullpen, greatly contributing to his 4.62 ERA.

The new pitch the Twins would like him to experiment with, in other words, is the strike.

"There were some mechanical issues last year," Gutierrez said. "I was doing some things—flying open, mostly, with my shoulder—and my delivery wasn't consistent.

"This offseason, that's been the big thing I've been working on, keeping my motion fluid (and trying) to keep my release consistent."

Gutierrez said he's completely healthy after missing a month last summer with shoulder stiffness that he refuses to blame for his control problems.

A closer during his senior season at Miami, Gutierrez said he would be thrilled with any bullpen role the Twins find for him, but he admits to dreaming about closing games at Target Field someday. The cutter may help him get closer to that goal.

"It's just something to add to the mix, something maybe guys haven't seen from me," he said. "I'm trying to do anything I can to make the team, and another pitch, if I can throw it for strikes, can't hurt."

Probably not. But "strikes" is the important part.

TWIN KILLINGS

• The Twins signed BA Independent League Player of the Year Chris Colabello to a minor league deal. The 28-year-old first baseman batted .348/.410/.600 with 20 home runs for Worcester last season to win Can-Am League MVP honors.

• Former Mariners lefthander Luke French signed a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. The 26-year-old made at least a dozen big league starts in both 2009 and 2010, but he ran up a 6.27 ERA over 146 innings for Triple-A Tacoma last season.