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News » Tom Powers: Minnesota Twins reliever Jose Mijares showing off new form


Tom Powers: Minnesota Twins reliever Jose Mijares showing off new form


Tom Powers: Minnesota Twins reliever Jose Mijares showing off new form
Tuesday night marked (drum roll, please) the return of the phenom. (Crash cymbals here.)

Jose Mijares was lights out against the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night. After giving up a leadoff walk to Carl Crawford in the eighth inning, Mijares fanned Evan Longoria, Carlos Pena and Willy Aybar. He blew it past them, too.

"He's doing fine," manager Ron Gardenhire said after the Twins' 4-3 victory. "He's working his tail off. He's doing rubber-band things with Stellie. It doesn't get any better than that."

"Stellie" is bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek. I don't know what "rubber-band things" are. But it's probably some sort of exercise. Which makes sense because Mijares is a new man since his return from exile to Class AAA Rochester.

Have you seen that TV commercial with the dopey-looking guy doing that funky dance in a waiting room? It's an ad for physical fitness, and it advises people to "walk, run, dance, jog, do..." That commercial could have been targeted specifically at Mijares, who probably is doing all of those things these days.

Someone said that last weekend Mijares was spotted at Fenway Park running sprints in the outfield well before the game. In the rain, no less. That's impressive from a guy who was so out of shape in spring training that he seemed to pull a muscle every time he had to move a couple of feet in either direction.

"I'm working very hard, every day," Mijares said.

And are you watching your diet?

"Yes."

And you're even doing some running?

"Running," he said with a smile. "Yes!"

It shows. He hasn't given up a run in three appearances since being recalled a week ago last Monday. Tuesday night's game against the Rays, though, is the first time he really looked dominant. What was supposed to serve as a wake-up call did just that. In fact, one of the Twins told me that the day Mijares was demoted near the end of spring training, he went right to the weight room and started working out very hard.

Mijares returned from Rochester five pounds lighter. OK, I realize that's like throwing a towel off a cruise ship, but it's the thought that counts. He's really trying hard to become better conditioned. When he came up last September, he was virtually unhittable. He's trying to get back to that.

"He threw 95, 96 and was really firing last year," Gardenhire said. "He threw it by a couple of guys tonight."

The manager and coaching staff had big plans for him this season. After playing winter ball, however, Mijares did no physical conditioning work for a month and a half before spring training. Gardenhire took one look at him and announced that he was on a diet. "You're not eating anything now," Gardenhire declared.

The next day, he walked into the clubhouse and saw Mijares digging into a huge plate of pasta. After a horrible training camp, Mijares was shipped to the minors.

"A little wake-up call for him wasn't a bad thing," Gardenhire said.

What Mijares did Tuesday night was what the Twins expected all along. He came in as the setup man for Joe Nathan in a tight 3-2 ballgame and protected the lead. Nathan gave up the tying run in the top of the ninth, but the Twins scored in the bottom of the inning to win.

When I saw Mijares last September, I was nearly speechless. The kid had so much poise and showed no fear. Gardenhire was using him in tight spots almost right away. The grueling pennant race seemed to have no effect on him at all. We all penciled him in for a major role in 2009. Chances are he'll have one, too. He's just starting about a month later than we thought.

Are you lifting weights?

"Yes," said Mijares, who isn't fluent in English.

And you know what you're not supposed to eat?

"Yes," he said. "Everything."

I think he's finally got it.

Tom Powers can be reached at tpowers@pioneerpress.com


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 29, 2009

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