Image credit: Minnesota Twins
Pitching success starts with strikes, and so does 23-year-old righthander Matt Canterino. Which is how one is finding the other.
“He’s a strike-thrower first, a guy who has that fundamental skill before you even talk about velocity,” Twins farm director Alex Hassan said. “If you start there, and then he’s able to add to his velocity as he goes along, now you’ve got a pitcher who can make progress in a hurry.”
How fast? For Canterino, a 2019 second-rounder from Rice, the development is coming game by game, practically pitch by pitch.
Canterino, who is 6-foot-2, 222 pounds, pitched three shutout innings in his first start for High-A Cedar Rapids, striking out six. He increased his workload to five innings the following week, and allowed one earned run while striking out nine.
And on May 21, Canterino blazed through six innings for the Kernels, holding Beloit to two hits and one run. Best of all, he struck out 10 without walking a batter.
That was 25 strikeouts and three walks over his first 14 innings to go with a 1.29 ERA, a résumé built by constantly getting ahead in the count. No wonder Canterino is considered a potential fit in the Twins’ rotation in another year or two.
“Matt’s a really intense competitor, and he’s got four good pitches,” Hassan said. “His fastball has ticked up the past couple of years.”
But it’s not Canterino’s fastball, which has hit 97 mph, that really intrigues the Twins.
“We’ve seen his changeup improve pretty dramatically, and he showed that at the alternate site during the shutdown,” Hassan said. “His changeup, in our eyes, is a real weapon now.”
Canterino worked so hard, even when minor league shut down in 2020, that the Twins invited him to their alternate training site for the season’s final three weeks. That acclimated him to the upper levels and rewarded him for his intensity.
“I’m really glad he got that time with our top guys last fall,” Hassan said. “He absolutely showed he belonged.”
— The Twins signed righthander Rob Whalen, who last pitched in 2018, to a minor league contract and assigned him to Triple-A St. Paul. Whalen, 27, retired from baseball due to depression and anxiety but decided to give the game another try. He appeared in eight major league games, totaling 36 innings, for the Braves and Mariners.