Game 12: Liriano, Burnett struggle in loss

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Left-hander Francisco Liriano allowed four runs over three innings, and the Twins managed just five hits in an 8-2 loss to the split-squad Blue Jays at Hammond Stadium.

The loss dropped the Twins to 6-6 in Grapefruit League play. They travel to Clearwater on Wednesday to face the Phillies and ace Roy Halladay.

What went right: Relievers Kyle Waldrop, Jared Burton and Matt Maloney kept their ERAs at 0.00, as they combined to retire all 10 batters they faced.

Waldrop threw a perfect fourth inning with a strikeout before Burton tossed a 1-2-3 fifth inning with two strikeouts. Maloney struck out Anthony Gose to end the sixth before retiring the side in order in the seventh with two more strikeouts.

The three pitchers have combined to throw 12 1/3 scoreless innings with 15 strikeouts and two walks allowed so far in Grapefruit League action.

It’s still early, but all three have made a strong case to join the bullpen out of camp with their impressive results.

Burton — the only non-roster invite of the three — remains the most likely to make the club given his success as a setup reliever with the Reds before injuries plagued him the last few seasons.

Maloney, who has experience as a starter, is a candidate to be a long reliever. He’s also a left-hander, and even though fellow left-handers Glen Perkins and Brian Duensing are locks to make the roster, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he has no problems having three lefties in the bullpen.

Gardenhire also gave Waldrop his full vote of confidence, saying that he believes that the sinkerballer is Major League ready.

The offense didn’t do much on the afternoon, but Joe Mauer went 2-for-3 with a run scored after being hitless over his previous four games. Luke Hughes also played all nine innings at second base and went 1-for-3. Trevor Plouffe and Steve Pearce picked up RBI singles in the sixth.

What went wrong: Liriano cruised through the first two innings but ran into trouble in the third inning.

He loaded the bases with nobody out, and ended up allowing back-to-back doubles to Travis Snider and Travis d’Arnaud with one out. The one positive was that he didn’t walk a batter and struck out five, but he also plunked Mike McCoy in the third and struggled with his command that inning.

Reliever Alex Burnett continued his struggles, allowing four runs on five hits and a balk while recording just two outs in the sixth inning.

Burnett, who is competing for a spot in the bullpen, hasn’t helped himself much this spring with a 16.80 ERA in 2 2/3 innings. He also struggled in a “B” game against the Pirates on Sunday.

What they said: “It was one of those games where there wasn’t a lot of movement on our side,” Gardenhire said. “We got behind early and played a little bit too much defense with not enough offense.”

What’s next: Right-hander Jason Marquis is set to make his third Grapefruit League start on Wednesday against the Phillies at 12:05 p.m. CT at Bright House Field. Marquis has allowed five runs on six hits over 4 2/3 innings so far this spring. Brian Duensing, Jeff Manship, Esmerling Vasquez, Luis Perdomo, Jeff Gray and Aaron Thompson are also scheduled to pitch for the Twins. Phillies ace Roy Halladay starts for Philadelphia.

Injury update: Center fielder Denard Span missed his second straight game with neck stiffness. But he took batting practice without any issues and is expected to make the trip to Clearwater on Wednesday. … Infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka was held out of the lineup for the second straight day with sprained left pinkie. Nishioka, though, is expected to start at shortstop against the Phillies. … Infielder Steve Pearce left Tuesday’s game with a strained right calf and is day to day.

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