Game 4: Center field candidates lead Twins to win
FORT MYERS, Fla. — All three Twins players competing for the center field spot this spring started against the Blue Jays and made an impact in the Twins’ 8-4 win on Tuesday at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.
Darin Mastroianni, Aaron Hicks and Joe Benson started in left, center and right field, respectively, and combined to go 4-for-12 with four RBIs, three runs and a walk.
What went right: Mastroianni, Hicks and Benson all looked good at the plate and displayed plenty of speed in the outfield tracking down fly balls.
Benson absolutely crushed a two-run homer in the second inning off Blue Jays left-hander Ricky Romero. Hicks also picked up two hits and just narrowly missed a homer, as he doubled off the right-field wall in the fourth and came around to score on a single from Mastroianni. Hicks later added an RBI single to center in the fourth.
Prospect Eddie Rosario also smashed a two-run blast in the seventh inning off Dave Bush. It was the first career Grapefruit League homer for Rosario, who is only in camp because he’s going to play for Team Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic.
Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau both fared well offensively, as Morneau went 2-for-4 with an RBI double while Mauer went 1-for-2 with two walks. Trevor Plouffe added an RBI single and a walk in his debut after missing the first three games with a sore right calf.
Relievers Ryan Pressly, Tim Wood, Josh Roenicke, Michael Tonkin and Luis Perdomo combined to throw 6 2/3 scoreless innings. Wood tossed two scoreless while Tonkin was overpowering in the eighth inning.
What went wrong: It’s hard to be too critical about just the first outing for right-hander Mike Pelfrey since he underwent Tommy John surgery on May 1 but he did give up three runs on five hits over 1 2/3 innings.
Pelfrey, whose fastball usually averages about 92 mph, was throwing his fastball at about 88 mph but said he’s not worried about velocity at this point in Spring Training. He said that he was only 82-84 mph in his first spring start last year before getting to 92-94 mph by the time the regular season started.
Mastroianni made a baserunning mistake in the in the fourth inning, when he tried to steal third with two outs and Morneau at-bat. He was caught stealing on the play and ended the inning. He’s an aggressive baserunner but he has to know the risk of getting caught at third with two outs outweighs the benefit of stealing third, especially with Morneau at the plate, as he’d score from second on a single with two outs anyways.
Left-hander Tyler Robertson served up his second homer of the spring on a solo blast to Andy LaRoche in the seventh inning.
I wouldn’t call it something going wrong but something very unusual happened in the first inning, when Romero got Mauer to pop up to catcher Henry Blanco. It’s an extremely rare thing considering Mauer has only popped up once over the last two seasons in 974 plate appearances, according to Fangraphs.com. For perspective, Jimmy Rollins popped out 42 times last year in 699 plate appearances.
What they said: “It was good. The defense played well. Couple balls out of the ballpark. Caught the ball. Only had one play that wasn’t great, Mastroianni trying to steal third there with Mornie up, in front of Canadian fans and everything. He just lost his head. So we straightened that out, and we’re OK.” — Gardenhire said.
What’s next: Right-hander Kevin Correia is set to take the mound for the second time this spring, when he starts against the Phillies in a 1:05 p.m. ET start at Hammond Stadium. Correia, who gave up a run on two hits over two innings in his first start, is scheduled to fly home to San Diego after the game to attend the birth of his third child. Left-hander John Lannan starts for the Phillies.
Injury update: Plouffe said he’s 100 percent and won’t be limited by his sore calf moving forward. But he said he’s hoping to test it out more, as no one hit the ball his way in his four innings at third base.