March 2012

Game 9: Valencia powers Twins to victory

BRADENTON, Fla. — Danny Valencia helped the Twins get out of their offensive slump with a three-run homer to lead the Twins to a 4-2 win over the Pirates on Saturday at McKechnie Field.

The victory snapped a three-game losing streak for the Twins, who improved to 4-5 in Grapefruit League play.

What went right: Valencia looked good at the plate, hitting an opposite-field double in the fifth inning off Jo-Jo Reyes before crushing a three-run shot off Reyes in the sixth.

The homer was set up by a two-out walk from Josh Willingham and a single from Justin Morneau. Morneau, who served as designated hitter, went 1-for-4 at the plate, including a deep fly ball to center field in the first. Willingham went 1-for-2 with a walk.

Right-hander Anthony Swarzak tossed 1 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of right-hander Terry Doyle, who struggled. Jared Burton, Matt Maloney, Kyle Waldrop, Lester Oliveros and P.J. Walters each tossed a scoreless inning.

“They’re doing fine,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of the relievers in camp. “We’re just looking at different guys. We see some guys we like a little bit. We like their arms. We see the ball coming out, but still, they’ve only been out once or twice. I think, let’s give them a couple more times out and see where we’re at.”

What went wrong: Doyle didn’t have his best stuff, as he allowed two runs on seven hits — including three doubles — and a walk over 2 2/3 innings.

Doyle, a Rule 5 Draft pick who must remain on the active roster all season or be offered back to the White Sox, didn’t exactly help his case to make the club. It was also Twins manager Ron Gardenhire’s first time seeing him pitch.

And while Valencia certainly had a good day offensively, the rest of the Twins combined for just four hits — singles from Willingham, Morneau, Rene Rivera and Alexi Casilla.

Also, despite 14 hits, including a homer from Oswaldo Arcia and two doubles from Chris Parmelee, the Twins also lost 8-2 in a “B” game to the Pirates earlier in the day. Scott Baker pitched in two innings, but recorded just four outs, surrendering six runs (five earned) on six hits, including a two-run homer by Matt Hague.

“Baker was not very good at all,” Gardenhire said. “He got beat around pretty good. He threw the ball. We’ll see how he does from there. Maybe that “B” game format, he might need a little more preparation than that riding the bus and all that trying to pitch. He didn’t react well to that.”

What they said: “We had two good ballgames today,” Gardenhire said. “We had 13 or 14 hits in the first one, then out here today we came up with some big hits too. A better day.”

What’s next: Right-hander Nick Blackburn is set to make his Grapefruit League debut on Sunday against the split-squad Yankees at 12:05 p.m. CT at Hammond Stadium. Blackburn has tossed three scoreless innings in two “B” games against the Red Sox this spring. Brian Duensing, Liam Hendriks, Jeff Manship, Tyler Robertson, Brendan Wise and Deolis Guerra are also scheduled to pitch for the Twins. Right-hander Phil Hughes is slated to start for the Yankees.

Game 9: Twins lineup vs. Pirates

BRADENTON, Fla. — After playing in a “B” game against the Pirates on a practice field a few miles down the road from McKechnie Field, the Twins are set to play the Pirates in a Grapefruit League game today at 12:05 p.m. CT.

Right-hander Scott Baker pitched in the “B” game and struggled, allowing six runs (five earned) on six hits, including a two-run homer, while recording just four outs over two innings pitched.

Baker was scheduled to start the game but needed some extra time to get loose after the 90-mile bus ride to Bradenton, so he didn’t pitch until the third inning.

But after his outing Baker said he felt just fine physically, and that his problem was that he just couldn’t keep the ball down.

I’ll have more on Baker in today’s notebook. And I’ll also have a notebook item on right-hander Terry Doyle, who starts against the Pirates today. It’s Twins manager Ron Gardenhire’s first look at the Rule 5 Draft pick.

Twins (3-5)
1. Denard Span, CF
2. Jamey Carroll, SS
3. Josh Willingham, RF
4. Justin Morneau, DH
5. Danny Valencia, 3B
6. Trevor Plouffe, LF
7. Steve Pearce, 1B
8. Rene Rivera, C
9. Alexi Casilla, 2B

RHP Terry Doyle

Pirates (3-4)
1. Alex Presley, LF
2. Nate McLouth, RF
3. Yamaico Navarro, SS
4. Rod Barajas, C
5. Casey McGehee, 3B
6. Jake Fox, 1B
7. Gorkys Hernandez, CF
8. Chase d’Arnaud, 2B
9. Erik Bedard, LHP

Game 8: Offense struggles again in loss to Cards

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Twins snapped their 27-inning scoreless streak and rallied late with a run in the ninth inning, but ultimately dropped their third straight game with a 3-2 loss to the Cardinals on Friday.

What went right: Marquis looked much better than he did in his first start on Monday against the Red Sox, when he couldn’t finish the second inning and allowed four runs. He wasn’t perfect against the Cardinals — he gave up one run on three hits and a walk over three innings — but it was still an improvement.

Glen Perkins, Phil Dumatrait, Casey Fien, Tyler Robertson and Deolis Guerra each threw a scoreless inning in relief. Perkins, making his first appearance since signing his three-year extension worth $10.3 million yesterday, pitched a perfect fourth inning with two strikeouts.

The Twins broke their scoreless streak on a walk with the bases loaded in the fourth. It was a good at-bat from Joe Benson, who fell behind 0-2 against right-hander Trevor Rosenthal, but worked the count and ultimately drew the walk.

But unfortunately for the Twins it was only one of a few good at-bats, as they didn’t score again until the ninth inning when Pedro Florimon drew a bases-loaded walk of his own.

What went wrong: The Twins have had troubles scoring runs all spring, and it continued against the Cardinals. After being shut out in back-to-back games, they scored just two runs and they both came on walks.

Closer Matt Capps also gave up a solo shot to Rafael Furcal in the fourth inning. He had trouble keeping the ball in the park last year, as he served up 10 homers in 65 2/3 innings. Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson said the homer came on a cutter, which Capps is working on developing this spring.

The defense didn’t commit any errors, but still managed to botch a few plays in the eighth. Second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka couldn’t turn a double play, as he didn’t get out of the way of Daniel Descalso and threw the ball away.

“He just needs to eat that ball because that’s how he got his leg broken,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire explained. “He’s trying to hang in there too long. He needs to get out of the way. On a slow hit ball, he’s not going to turn two. The only way he can deliver that ball is if he clears that base by coming forward or going backwards. You can’t stay at the bag. You’re going to get killed.”

Shortstop Pedro Florimon then couldn’t handle a hard grounder from Shane Robinson with two outs that allowed a run to score. And on the same play, Twins third baseman Michael Hollimon failed to cut off the throw from left field, which allowed Robinson to reach second.

The Twins rallied with a run in the ninth against right-hander Victor Marte, but left the bases loaded, as Rene Tosoni grounded out to end the game. Tosoni swung at the first pitch despite the fact Marte was having control problems and walked two batters.

What they said: “I don’t know — we didn’t sign him to hit — not yet,” Gardenhire said when asked if Marquis is a good hitter.

What’s next: Right-hander Terry Doyle starts against the Pirates on Saturday in Bradenton. It marks the Rule 5 Draft pick’s second start of Grapefruit League play, as he tossed two scoreless frames against the Rays on Sunday. Justin Morneau, who didn’t play on Friday, is expected to serve as designated hitter. The Twins are also scheduled to play in a “B” game against the Pirates with right-hander Scott Baker making the start.

Injury update: A day after making his first appearance in the infield, Luke Hughes played four innings at first base without any issues. Hughes, who is battling a sprained right shoulder, made a throwing error on Thursday, but didn’t have to make any throws on Friday.

Game 8: Twins lineup vs. Cardinals, Wainwright

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Twins get the chance to face Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright today in his first start since Sept. 24, 2010.

Wainwright is making his much anticipated debut after missing all of last season with Tommy John surgery.

He’ll get a chance to face some Twins regulars early in the lineup, as Ben Revere, Jamey Carroll and Joe Mauer are all in there. It’s Mauer’s third straight day in the lineup after playing first in a “B” game on Wednesday and catching yesterday.

Twins (3-4):
1. Ben Revere, LF
2. Jamey Carroll, SS
3. Joe Mauer, DH
4. Chris Parmelee, 1B
5. Ryan Doumit, C
6. Sean Burroughs, 3B
7. Brian Dinkelman, RF
8. Joe Benson, CF
9. Alexi Casilla, 2B

RHP Jason Marquis

Twins reserves: Drew Butera, Rene Rivera, Denard Span, Justin Morneau, Josh Willingham, Rene Tosoni

Twins pitchers: Glen Perkins, Matt Capps, Phil Dumatrait, Casey Fien, Jeff Gray, Tyler Robertson, Deolis Guerra

Game 7: Liriano solid but late error dooms Twins

FORT MYERS, Fla. — On the day Glen Perkins signed a three-year extension, a costly error by second baseman Luke Hughes in the ninth inning led to a 1-0 loss to the Rays at Hammond Stadium.

Left-hander Francisco Liriano was solid, but the offense couldn’t get much going against Tampa Bay, which improved to 1-2 against Minnesota in Grapefruit League play.

What went right: Liriano faced the minimum, allowing just one hit over three scoreless innings. He also struck out five and didn’t issue a walk. He also didn’t have to depend on his slider for results, as he threw it just four times in 34 pitches.

But Liriano wasn’t the only pitcher with impressive results, as Liam Hendriks, Scott Diamond, Daryl Thompson, Jeff Manship and Brendan Wise each threw a scoreless inning for the Twins. Manship was particularly impressive, as he struck out the side in the seventh.

Center fielder Denard Span went 1-for-2 with a walk and two stolen bases to pace the offense. Josh Willingham, J.R. Towles, Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Aaron Bates each picked up a hit for the Twins. Bates also made a nice diving play at first in the ninth to save a run from scoring.

What went wrong: Hughes, making his first appearance at second base since suffering a sprained right shoulder in a home-plate collision in early March, made a throwing error that led to the lone run of the game scoring in the ninth.

Right-hander Carlos Gutierrez walked Hak-Ju Lee with two outs before he stole second with Tim Beckham at the plate. Gutierrez appeared to get out of the inning with Beckham hitting a grounder to second, but Hughes threw the ball into the dirt to allow Lee to score from second.

On the next play, Nishioka couldn’t handle a ball hit to his right by Cole Figueroa, but it was ruled a single. The Twins were then lucky to get out of the inning without any more damage, as Bates robbed Brad Coon of a run-scoring hit on a diving play at first to end the inning.

Because of the botched plays behind Gutierrez, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said it wasn’t Gutierrez’s fault for allowing an unearned run to get saddled with the loss.

“Today he threw the ball great but we just missed plays behind him,” Gardenhire said. “This is one of our top prospects, arm-wise, velocity-wise; he’s a big, strong kid. We need him to stay in the zone and keep the pace going. His last two outings it’s kinda what he’s been able to do.”

What they said: “Neither team had much offense to talk about so let’s call that good pitching,” Gardenhire joked. “Let’s not get into the negatives.”

What’s next: Right-hander Jason Marquis starts against the Cardinals tomorrow at Hammond Stadium. It marks his second start of Grapefruit League play, as he allowed four runs on three hits over 1 2/3 innings against the Red Sox on Monday. Joe Mauer is also expected to DH. Right-hander Adam Wainwright, who missed all of last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, starts for the Cardinals for the first time since Sept. 24, 2010.

Injury update: Twins infielder Luke Hughes made his first appearance at second base after serving as designated hitter twice in spring. And although he made a throwing error in the ninth, he told Gardenhire he’s healthy and ready to play in the infield.

Perkins signs extension; Twins lineup vs. Rays

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Twins made a big announcement this morning, as they signed left-hander Glen Perkins to a three-year extension through the 2015 season that is worth a guaranteed $10.3 million.

The deal also includes a club option for 2016, and has incentives for games finished in case he becomes the closer in the coming years. The deal doesn’t start until 2013, as he’s still under contract for $1.55 million this year.

Perkins, 29, would have been eligible to be a free agent after the 2013 season. He’s coming off a career year, as he posted a 2.48 ERA with 65 strikeouts in 61 2/3 innings.

“I think it always takes two sides,” Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said. “We had interest in extending him. He was absolutely in trying to do something. He likes it here, he’s from here, he lives here. So this was an opportunity for Glen to get security and an opportunity for us to lock up a key piece of our bullpen for the next four years plus.”

More to come at Twinsbaseball.com.

Twins lineup:
1. Denard Span, CF
2. Trevor Plouffe, LF
3. Joe Mauer, C
4. Justin Morneau, 1B
5. Josh Willingham, DH
6. Danny Valencia, 3B
7. Ryan Doumit, RF
8. Brian Dozier, SS
9. Ray Chang, 2B

LHP Francisco Liriano

Twins reserves: J.R. Towles, Danny Lehmann, Sean Burroughs, Luke Hughes, Chris Parmelee, Ben Revere, Rene Tosoni

Twins pitchers: Scott Diamond, Deolis Guerra, Carlos Gutierrez, Liam Hendriks, Jeff Manship, Tyler Robertson, Brendan Wise, Daryl Thompson

Rays lineup:
1. Desmond Jennings, LF
2. Elliot Johnson, 2B
3. Sean Rodriguez, SS
4. Carlos Pena, 1B
5. Chris Gimenez, 3B
6. Brad Coon, RF
7. Stephen Vogt, C
8. Jesus Feliciano, CF
9. Nevin Ashley, DH

RHP Chris Archer

Twins lineups vs. Orioles & Red Sox (“B” game)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Twins head to Sarasota for Grapefruit League action against the Orioles at 12:05 p.m. CT, while also hosting a “B” game against the Red Sox at 9 a.m. at Hammond Stadium.

I’m staying back to watch the “B” game because Joe Mauer will be playing first base for the first time this spring, and Justin Morneau is serving as designated hitter. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire also hinted Mauer and Morneau could get some extra at-bats in the “B” game because of its loose structure.

Right-hander Nick Blackburn is also set to start against the Red Sox. He’s yet to make an appearance in a Grapefruit League game, as he last pitched in Thursday’s “B” vs. Boston.

Unfortunately, neither game is on TV or radio. I’ll providing updates from the “B” game from Twitter for those interested.

Twins lineup vs. Orioles:

1. Denard Span, CF
2. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, 2B
3. Josh Willingham, RF
4. Aaron Bates, 1B
5. Brian Dinkelman, DH
6. Sean Burroughs, 3B
7. Ben Revere, LF
8. Drew Butera, C
9. Pedro Florimon, SS

RHP Carl Pavano

Twins reserves: Danny Lehmann, Danny Rams, Dan Rohlfing, Ray Chang, Brian Dozier, Steve Pearce, Darin Mastoianni, Oswaldo Acia, Rene Tosoni

Twins pitchers: Alex Burnett, Luis Perdomo, Jason Bulger, Jaren Burton, Esmerling Vasquez, Daryl Thompson, Casey Fien

Twins lineup (“B” game vs. Red Sox)

1. Alexi Casilla, 2B
2. Jamey Carroll, SS
3. Joe Mauer, 1B
4. Justin Morneau, DH
5. Michael Hollimon, 3B
6. Trevor Plouffe, LF
7. Wilkin Ramirez, RF
8. Rene Rivera, C
9. Joe Benson, CF

RHP Nick Blackburn

Twins reserves: Ryan Doumit, Chris Herrmann, J.R. Towles, Danny Valencia, Chris Parmelee, Matt Carson, Luke Hughes

Twins pitchers: Anthony Swarzak, Lester Oliveros, Aaron Thompson, P.J. Walters, Kyle Waldrop

Game 5: Twins improve to 3-0 vs. Rays

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — The Twins continued to beat up on the Rays, improving to 3-0 against them this spring with a 3-2 win at Charlotte Sports Park. Minnesota still plays Tampa Bay six more times in Grapefruit League play.

What went right: Right-hander Scott Baker looked impressive, throwing two hitless innings with one walk. He threw 23 pitches, 15 for strikes, while recording five fly ball outs and one groundout.

Left-hander Matt Maloney also threw two scoreless frames. He gave up two hits and struck out one. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was impressed, and said he plans on stretching out Maloney as a starter this spring.

Right-hander Matt Capps got into a jam in the fifth, allowing back-to-back singles with one out but stranded the two baserunners with a pair of fly outs to end the inning. Glen Perkins, Brian Duensing and Phil Dumatrait each threw a scoreless inning in relief.

Ben Revere went 1-for-2 with a run and a sacrifice bunt, while Alexi Casilla had two hits and a stolen base and Jamey Carroll added a hit, a walk and a stolen base. Danny Valencia went 1-for-4 with an RBI single with the bases loaded in the third.

What went wrong: Revere made an error in left field in the third inning, as he bobbled a ball hit by Desmond Jennings and followed it with a bad throw to third base.

Darrin Mastroianni replaced Revere in left, and made an error of his own in the eighth that led to a run. He lost a fly ball hit by Elliot Johnson in the wind and dropped it to allow a run to score from second. Johnson reached second on the play, and later scored on a single from Jose Lobaton.

What they said: “Bake was easy,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He didn’t even work up a sweat, which is good. I like that. He threw the ball nice and easy, and located a little bit. He threw his breaking ball a little bit. It was a good day for him.”

What’s next: Right-hander Carl Pavano is set to make his second Grapefruit League start of the year on Wednesday against the Orioles at 12:05 p.m. CT at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota. Pavano allowed two runs on three hits over two innings in his Spring Training debut against the Rays on Saturday. Left-hander Wei-Yin Chen will start for the Orioles. The Twins also are scheduled to host a “B” game against the Red Sox at 10 a.m. ET at Hammond Stadium. Joe Mauer is set to play first base, Justin Morneau is slated to serve as designated hitter and right-hander Nick Blackburn is scheduled to start.

Injury update: Twins infielder Luke Hughes took a day off from throwing today. He threw for six days so team doctors advised him to rest for one day. He’s hoping to make his first start in the infield later this week. … First-base coach Jerry White spent last night in the hospital after experiencing tightness in his chest and stomach. He underwent a stress test today and was released from the hospital. He’s expected to be back out on the field tomorrow … Reliever Joel Zumaya set a date to undergo Tommy John surgery, as he’ll have it on March 29 in Pensacola, Fla. Dr. James Andrews will perform the operation.

Game 5: Twins lineup vs. Rays

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Right-hander Scott Baker makes his first start in Grapefruit League play today against the Rays at Charlotte Sports Park.

Baker tossed one inning in a “B” game against the Red Sox on Thursday, allowing one run on a homer by Ryan Lavarnway. He’s set to go two innings today, and is expected to be followed by left-hander Scott Baker.

Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Denard Span and Josh Willingham didn’t make the trip today, but we’ll get a chance to see how Alexi Casilla and Jamey Carroll work together in the middle infield.

The game will also be televised on Fox Sports North and on MLB.TV at 12:05 p.m. CT. It will also be on radio on the Twins Radio Network and streaming on MLB.com.

Twins lineup:
1. Ben Revere, LF
2. Jamey Carroll, SS
3. Ryan Doumit, C
4. Chris Parmelee, 1B
5. Danny Valencia, 3B
6. Brian Dinkelman, RF
7. Steve Pearce, DH
8. Joe Benson, CF
9. Alexi Casilla, 2B

RHP Scott Baker

Twins reserves: Chris Hermann, J.R. Towles, Brian Dozier, Pedro Florimon, Michael Hollimon, Oswaldo Arcia, Wilkin Ramirez, Matt Carson, Darin Mastroianni

Twins pitchers: Brian Duensing, Glen Perkins, Matt Capps, Phil Dumatrait, Matt Maloney, Daryl Thompson and Jeff Gray.

Rays lineup:
1. Desmond Jennings, DH
2. Sean Rodriguez, SS
3. Carlos Pena, 1B
4. Brandon Guyer, RF
5. Jeff Salazar, CF
6. Chris Gimenez, C
7. Will Rhymes, 2B
8. Matt Mangini, 3B
9. Jesus Feliciano

RHP Jeff Niemann

Game 4: Twins sloppy in 10-2 loss to Red Sox

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Twins didn’t exactly look sharp in a 10-2 loss to the Red Sox in their first and only night game of the spring at Hammond Stadium.

Right-hander Jason Marquis struggled in his Grapefruit League debut, allowing four runs on three hits and three walks over just 1 2/3 innings.

What went right: Joe Mauer continued to look good at the plate and went 2-for-3 with an RBI single in the fifth inning. Tsuyoshi Nishioka also added an RBI single and went 1-for-3.

New additions Josh Willingham and Ryan Doumit combined to reach base five times. Willingham was hit by a pitch, singled to left and walked, while Doumit walked and singled to center. Denard Span also went 1-for-2 with a walk.

Right-hander Liam Hendriks threw two scoreless innings with three strikeouts — all looking. His lone mistake was a double by David Ortiz that went off the wall in left field. Right-hander Carlos Gutierrez bounced back after a rough outing in last week’s “B” Game, throwing a scoreless inning with two strikeouts. Brendan Wise and Tyler Robertson each threw a scoreless frame.

What went wrong: Well, where should we start?

Marquis didn’t impress in his debut, as he had trouble finding the strikezone and threw three wild pitches, including one that allowed a run to score. He also wasn’t helped by the defense, as Ryan Doumit — making his first-ever start in left field — booted a ball for an error, and Justin Morneau made a throwing error after a nice play at first base.

Right-hander Jeff Manship came in and got of the second-inning mess left by Marquis, but then served up a solo homer to Ortiz in the third inning.

And right-hander Deolis Guerra allowed five runs in the seventh inning, including a three-run homer to Dan Butler. He allowed four hits and walked one.

What they said: “10-2 tends to take the wick out of you on Fireworks Day as they say,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire joked after the game when asked if there were any positives to find in the game.

What’s next: Right-hander Scott Baker is set to make his first Grapefruit League start tomorrow against the Rays at 12:05 p.m. CT at Charlotte Sports Park. Ryan Doumit is also slated to make his first start at catcher after seeing time at designated hitter and in left field so far this spring. Right-hander Jeff Niemann is scheduled to start for the Rays. The game will be aired live on Fox Sports North and the Twins Radio Network.

Injury update: Infielder Luke Hughes (strained right shoulder) served as designated hitter for a second straight day. He hopes to make his first start in the field sometime this week. … Infielder Ray Chang, who left Sunday’s game after taking a knee to the jaw, took infield on Monday without any issues. He said he suffered from some jaw spasms last night, but felt OK this morning. … First-base coach Jerry White is staying in the hospital overnight for precautionary reasons to get checked out for stomach and chest tightness.

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