March 2013

Worley officially named Twins’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, Fla. — Right-hander Vance Worley turned in his best outing of the spring on Wednesday against the Pirates, and was rewarded after the game by being named Minnesota’s Opening Day starter.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire made the announcement that Worley, who gave up two runs on five hits over five innings against the Pirates, will take the mound for the Twins on Monday against the Tigers at Target Field.

But it wasn’t exactly a surprise considering Worley has been lined up for that outing for the last few weeks, and was the top candidate to make that start with left-hander Scott Diamond on the disabled list to start the season after having a bone chip removed from his elbow in December.

“Worley threw the ball well and he’s going to be the Opening Day starter,” Gardenhire said. “I thought today he had his best stuff with his breaking ball and all that. So a good day for him.”

Worley, who was acquired in the trade that sent Ben Revere to Philadelphia, finishes spring with a 5.73 ERA in Grapefruit League play. But Worley said he’s satisfied with where he’s at heading into the regular season, especially coming off his best start of the spring.

“I’m excited,” Worley said. “Especially after the spring I had, I finally got some kinks out and threw the ball well today.”

Game 29: Offense stays hot in win over Orioles

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Josh Willingham homered and Chris Parmelee and Wilkin Ramirez both doubled twice to help lead the Twins to a 9-5 win over the Orioles on Tuesday at Hammond Stadium.

With the win, the Twins improved to 15-14 in Grapefruit League play. They travel to Bradenton on Wednesday to play the Pirates in a day game at McKechnie Field.

What went right: The offense has been on fire recently, and it continued against the Orioles.

Aaron Hicks, Parmelee and Ramirez each collected three hits while Willingham hit his third homer of the spring.

Top prospect Miguel Sano played in front of the home crowd at Hammond Stadium in a Grapefruit League for the first time in his career, and went 1-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored. He didn’t really have any balls hit his way but the Twins have raved about how much he’s improved defensively.

It’ll be exciting to see another top prospect play on Wednesday, as Byron Buxton is on the travel list to play in Bradenton. Buxton, ranked as the club’s No. 2 overall prospect, was the No. 2 overall pick in last year’s First-Year Player Draft.

Relievers Jared Burton and Glen Perkins both threw a scoreless inning. Burton has pitched much better recently and Perkins has yet to give up a run in Grapefruit League action.

What went wrong: Right-hander Liam Hendriks was pitching well but left the game in the third inning after being struck on the right hand by a line drive from Brian Roberts.

Hendriks, who tossed 2 2/3 scoreless innings, said the injury is minor and that he hopes to throw his scheduled bullpen session on Thursday. Luckily for Hendriks it was just a bruise and left his pinky slightly swollen.

Hendriks said he still hasn’t been told that he’s made the rotation but as long as he can bounce back from the hand injury, it seems like a safe bet considering Samuel Deduno and P.J. Walters were both reassigned to Minor League camp before the game.

Relievers Alex Burnett and Casey Fien were only OK, as Burnett gave up a run in 1 1/3 innings while Fien surrendered two runs in two innings.

What they said: “I have no idea yet. It’s still up in the air. Obviously, it stinks. But at least it was a scoreless outing.” — Hendriks on if he’s made the team.

What’s next:Right-hander Vance Worley is set to start for the Twins in a 1:05 p.m. ET game on Wednesday against the Pirates at McKechnie Field. Worley is likely to be Minnesota’s Opening Day starter, as he’s starting five days before the regular season opener against the Tigers on Monday at Target Field. But the Twins have yet to officially name an Opening Day starter. Right-hander A.J. Burnett is scheduled to take the mound for Pittsburgh.

Injury update: Shortstop Pedro Florimon tweaked his ankle running the bases and won’t play Wednesday for precautionary reasons. … Right-hander Tim Wood (strained rotator cuff) is likely to start the year on the disabled list, according to general manager Terry Ryan.

Game 28: Pelfrey solid but bullpen falters in loss

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Twins rallied for two runs in the seventh inning but Minor League pitcher Jason Lane gave up three runs in the ninth inning to hand the Twins a 4-3 loss to the Cardinals on Monday at Hammond Stadium.

With the loss, the Twins fell to 14-14 in Grapefruit League play. They host the Orioles in a day game at Hammond Stadium on Tuesday.

What went right: Right-hander Mike Pelfrey turned in his best outing of the spring, as he gave up one run on five hits and a walk over five innings.

Pelfrey, who had Tommy John surgery on May 1, is set to make one more start on Saturday before the start of the regular season. But he appears to be out of the mix for the Opening Day start against the Tigers on April 1, as Vance Worley appears to be the top candidate because he’s slated to start Wednesday.

Reliever Ryan Pressly threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings in relief and looks to be a lock at this point in spring, which is impressive as a Rule 5 Draft pick. If he makes the Twins, he must remain on the 25-man roster for the entire season, or else he must be offered back to the Red Sox.

Left-hander Tyler Robertson threw 1 1/3 scoreless innings but looks to be on the outside looking in once the final round of cuts comes this week. He has a 6.75 ERA this spring.

Joe Mauer continued his impressive spring, going 2-for-3, and is hitting .435. Eduardo Escobar went 3-for-4 and is hitting .346.

What went wrong: The ninth inning was a mess for Minnesota but it came with Minor Leaguers in the game for the Twins.

Lane, who is a converted outfielder who played parts of six years in the Majors, gave up three runs in the ninth inning. Lane is still working out the kinks of being a pitcher, as he spent most of last year pitching for the independent Sugar Land Skeeters in Texas.

What they said: “At this point, he’s in. Things can change but at this point, he’s in. And we feel good about that. We’re excited for him.” — Twins manager Ron Gardenhire on non-roster outfielder Wilkin Ramirez.

What’s next:Right-hander Liam Hendriks is set to start for the Twins in a 1:05 p.m. ET game on Tuesday against the Orioles at Hammond Stadium. Hendriks is battling for a spot in the rotation but saw his chances improve on Monday, when the Twins trimmed their roster by four players and have just 27 healthy players in camp. Right-hander Kevin Gausman is scheduled to take the mound for the Orioles.

Injury update: Right-handers Tim Wood (right rotator cuff strain) and Samuel Deduno (strained groin) continue to be shut down with their injuries, according to Twins general manager Terry Ryan. Ryan said there is not a timetable for a return for either pitcher yet.

Opening Day roster predictions for the Twins

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Opening Day roster for the Twins began to take shape today, as the club optioned catcher Drew Butera to Triple-A Rochester and reassigned catcher Dan Rohlfing, outfielder Brandon Boggs and infielders Jeff Clement and Ray Olmedo to Minor League camp.

The roster moves mean the Twins have 31 active players in camp, but that includes injured pitchers Tim Wood, Samuel Deduno, Rafael Perez and Rich Harden so it’s really down to just two roster decisions.

Wood is a candidate to start the year on the 15-day disabled list while Deduno, who is not on the 40-man roster, will likely start at Triple-A Rochester while he recovers from his groin injury. Perez and Harden are both throwing off the mound but are a ways away and not on the 40-man roster.

So with a week left in camp, here’s what I have as my predictions for Minnesota’s roster come Opening Day:

ROTATION

Locks: Vance Worley, Mike Pelfrey, Kevin Correia
Spots open: Two
Prediction: Cole De Vries, Liam Hendriks
Other candidates: P.J. Walters
Situation: With Scott Diamond on the disabled list to the start the season and top prospect Kyle Gibson ticketed for Triple-A Rochester, the Twins have two open spots in the rotation. De Vries, who has been impressive this spring, seems close to a lock at this point and Hendriks also appears likely. Walters looks to be on the outside looking in, as he’s not as stretched out as De Vries and Hendriks and is also not on the 40-man roster. The Twins, though, could open the year with four starting pitchers because of an off-day on April 2.

BULLPEN

Locks: Glen Perkins (CL), Jared Burton, Brian Duensing (L)
Spots open: Four (or five potentially)
Prediction: Alex Burnett, Casey Fien, Josh Roenicke, Ryan Pressly
Other candidates: Tyler Robertson
Situation: At this point, Pressly and Roenicke seem like locks, especially because Roenicke is out of Minor League options and Pressly is a Rule 5 Draft pick. Burnett and Fien were both solid last year and have been pitching better recently, so they’re pretty close to locks as well. The only question is whether the Twins want to go with 13 pitchers to open the season, which means Robertson could sneak in as the club’s eighth reliever. But he really struggled in his last outing and has a 7.71 ERA this spring.

CATCHER

Locks: Joe Mauer, Ryan Doumit
Spots open: None
Situation: Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said early in spring that he didn’t want to go with three catchers because he wanted more pop off the bench and stuck to his word. Drew Butera was optioned to Triple-A so Mauer and Doumit will split the catching duties.

INFIELD

Locks: Justin Morneau, Brian Dozier, Pedro Florimon, Trevor Plouffe, Jamey Carroll, Eduardo Escobar
Spots open: None
Situation: Morneau, Dozier, Florimon, Plouffe and Carroll were all locks before Spring Training even started but Escobar played his way onto the roster. He’s been solid both offensively and defensively this spring, and also is expected to be the club’s emergency catcher.

OUTFIELD

Locks: Josh Willingham, Aaron Hicks, Chris Parmelee, Darin Mastroianni
Spots open: One (potentially)
Prediction: Wilkin Ramirez
Situation: Ramirez has been on fire at the plate recently, and is hitting .425 (17-for-40) this spring with seven doubles. Gardenhire has talked about having a better bench and Ramirez would seemingly help that cause as a fifth outfielder with some pop in his bat. But Ramirez is limited defensively to playing only the corners while Mastroianni can play all three spots. Ramirez is essentially a lock to make the team if the Twins decide to go with 12 pitchers. But the fact that he’s not on the 40-man roster is what works against him.

Game 27: Hicks’ big day helps carry Twins to victory

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Joe Mauer, Brian Dozier, Justin Morneau and Drew Butera homered to lead the Twins to a 14-5 win over the Blue Jays on Sunday at Hammond Stadium.

But it was Aaron Hicks who stole the show by going 4-for-4 with three runs scored and an RBI before being named the club’s starting center fielder come Opening Day after the game.

With the win, the Twins improved to 14-13 in Grapefruit League play. They host the Cardinals in an afternoon game at Hammond Stadium on Monday.

What went right: The wind certainly helped but the Twins offense had another big performance.

Mauer blasted a three-run homer in the first inning and later drove home three more runs with a bases clearing double as part of a seven-run fourth inning for the Twins.

Dozier and Morneau also hit two-run homers while Butera launched a solo blast while serving as a pinch-hitter for Mauer.

But Hicks set the tone at the top of the lineup with four hits, including a double, and was rewarded by being told after the game that he beat out Darin Mastroianni for the center-field job.

On the pitching side, Jared Burton tossed a scoreless inning while Josh Roenicke threw two scoreless frames. It’s looking like Roenicke, who is out of Minor League options, will make the bullpen, especially now that Tim Wood is out with a strained right rotator cuff.

What went wrong: The Twins finally got their chance to start P.J. Walters with Samuel Deduno out with a strained left groin but he didn’t have his best stuff.

Walters, who entered with a perfect 0.00 ERA in 11 innings, didn’t fare as well against Toronto, as he surrendered three runs on five hits and two walks over three-plus innings. He also served up a two-run blast to Luis Jimenez on a windy day that featured seven homers between the two clubs.

He threw 57 pitches and is expected to get to 85 pitches in his next outing. But he could be on the outside looking in as far as the rotation goes, as he’s not as stretched out as Cole De Vries or Liam Hendriks and isn’t on the 40-man roster.

What they said: “I think it’s pretty simple to say Hicks is going to be our center fielder. I don’t think it’s a shocking announcement by any means.”– Twins manager Ron Gardenhire.

What’s next: Right-hander Mike Pelfrey is set to start for the Twins in a 1:05 p.m. ET game against the Cardinals at Hammond Stadium. Pelfrey, who had Tommy John surgery on May 1, has a 7.45 ERA in four outings this spring. Right-hander Shelby Miller is scheduled to take the mound for the Cardinals.

Injury update: Wood was diagnosed with a right rotator cuff strain and is likely to not be ready for the start of the season, according to Twins general manager Terry Ryan.

Hicks named Opening Day starting center fielder

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The starting center-fielder competition is over for the Twins.

Aaron Hicks, who has yet to play above Double-A New Britain, will be Minnesota’s center fielder and leadoff hitter come Opening Day on April 1 against the Tigers at Target Field, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire announced Sunday.

Hicks, who went 4-for-4 with three runs scored and an RBI against the Blue Jays on Sunday, won the battle over Darin Mastroianni and Joe Benson. Mastroianni is expected to be the club’s fourth outfielder while Benson was optioned to Triple-A Rochester on Friday.

“I think it’s pretty simple to say Hicks is going to be our center fielder,” Gardenhire said. “I don’t think it’s a shocking announcement by any means.”

Hicks, 23, has been impressive this spring, as he’s hitting .350/.397/.650 with a team-high four homers, 16 RBIs, 16 runs and three stolen bases. He hit five homers in a three-game stretch earlier this month, including three in a game against the Phillies in Clearwater and one against Team Puerto Rico in an exhibition game.

“It feels great,” Hicks said. “It’s everything I’ve been working for since I started playing baseball. So it just feels really good to be named center fielder.”

Game 26: Escobar, bullpen help lead Twins to victory

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Eduardo Escobar provided the go-ahead two-run single in the seventh inning and the bullpen was solid in a 6-4 win for the Twins over the Rays on Saturday at Charlotte Sports Park.

The Twins improved to 13-13 with the victory and host the Blue Jays in an afternoon game at Hammond Stadium on Sunday.

What went right: The offense was solid again, as evidenced by the six runs and 12 hits even though Rays ace David Price started the game.

Center fielder Aaron Hicks had another nice game offensively, going 1-for-3 with two walks, including a bases loaded walk against Price in the fourth.

Brian Dozier made a really nice play in the field at second base and also went 1-for-3 with a walk and is looking like the top candidate to bat second to open the season. Outfielder Wilkin Ramirez has also been swinging a hot bat and went 2-for-3 to raise his average to .425.

Dan Rohlfing went 2-for-5 with two hits off Price and is hitting .308 in limited time this spring. Escobar, though, had the big hit with a two-run single off Jim Paduch in the seventh.

The bullpen also did its job, as Tim Wood, Glen Perkins, Alex Burnett and Casey Fien combined for 4 1/3 scoreless innings. Fien and Burnett both threw perfect innings with Fien getting two strikeouts.

What went wrong: Right-hander Kevin Correia was better than his last outing but still gave up four runs (three earned) on five hits and three walks over 4 2/3 innings.

He’s slated to start one more time this spring before the regular season starts and said he wants it to be a good one so he can go into the year on a high note. He also said he hasn’t been told where he’ll be slotted in the rotation.

So while the offense was solid, the Twins did strike out 14 times on the afternoon. Josh Willingham and Darin Mastroianni both went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. But both hitters are still having solid springs at the plate.

What they said: “They’re all getting better. Today was good. Spring Training is a progression. Not only do you have to get your arm and body in shape but you have to get your mind in shape. Spring is almost over, so now is the time to go get it.” — Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson on the pitching staff.

What’s next: Right-hander P.J. Walters is scheduled to take the mound against the Blue Jays on Sunday in a 1:05 p.m. ET start at Hammond Stadium. Walters, who is competing for a spot in the rotation, has been solid this spring, as he’s yet to allow a run in 10 innings. Right-hander David Bush is slated to start for Toronto.

Injury update: Right-hander Samuel Deduno was scratched from his scheduled start against the Blue Jays on Sunday because of groin tightness. The Twins aren’t sure how long he’ll be out.

RHP Samuel Deduno out with groin tightness

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Right-hander Samuel Deduno was scratched from his scheduled start against the Blue Jays on Sunday because of groin tightness, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire announced Saturday.

Deduno originally felt the tightness while pitching in the championship game of the World Baseball Classic for the Dominican Republic on Tuesday.

He thought the injury was minor, as he was still able to throw five scoreless innings to lead the Dominican Republic to the title, but felt it while throwing a bullpen on Thursday.

Gardenhire said there is no timetable for Deduno’s return and that right-hander P.J. Walters will start in his place against Toronto on Sunday.

“We have to wait until he’s healthy,” Gardenhire said. “We don’t have a plan until he gets back on the mound. He has some groin tightness. We put him on the mound but he said he felt something at the world games so we’re just biding our time now.”

Deduno was a candidate to be part of the club’s starting rotation, especially after he posted a 0.69 ERA with 17 strikeouts and five walks in 13 innings in the Classic.

But now it appears the non-roster invite will have trouble being ready in time for the season. Other candidates for the backend of the rotation include Liam Hendriks, Cole De Vries and Walters.

“He didn’t think it was a big deal but it is a big deal because you can’t start with that,” Gardenhire said. “So now we’re on hold until he gets back off that. It kind of makes us ad-lib a little bit.”

Game 25: Worley, Robertson struggle in loss to NYY

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Justin Morneau, Ryan Doumit and Dan Rohlfing homered but it wasn’t enough for the Twins in a 9-7 loss to the Yankees on Friday in front of a record crowd of 8,366 at Hammond Stadium.

With the loss, the Twins fell to 12-13 in Grapefruit League play. They travel to Port Charlotte to face the Rays on Saturday.

What went right: The Twins had plenty of offense, as evidenced by the homers from Morneau, Doumit and Rohlfing.

Third baseman Trevor Plouffe, in his return to Grapefruit League action after missing time with a strained right calf, went 2-for-3 with a run scored. Right fielder Wilkin Ramirez went 3-for-3 with two doubles.

Rule 5 Draft pick Ryan Pressly tossed a scoreless inning and now has an impressive 0.82 ERA this spring. Left-hander Brian Duensing also tossed a scoreless frame to lower his ERA to 4.09. Right-hander Josh Roenicke, who is out of options, also threw a scoreless inning.

What went wrong: Right-hander Vance Worley gave up five runs (four earned) on eight hits over five innings.

He now has a 6.35 ERA this spring, which doesn’t include the two runs he gave up in 3 1/3 innings against Puerto Rico in an exhibition game. He’s still a top candidate to start on Opening Day on April 1 but this start didn’t help his cause.

Left-hander Tyler Robertson likely sealed his fate with a trip to Triple-A Rochester by giving up four runs on five hits in the eighth inning.

What they said: “I think I wrote on the back of my lineup card — ‘Worley: lots of balls up. Not many breakers early. Slow pace.’ Just that type of stuff. Didn’t seem like he did much feel to it. He was really searching on the mound.” — Twins manager Ron Gardenhire

What’s next: Right-hander Kevin Correia is set to make his second-to-last start of the spring for the Twins on Saturday, when they travel to play the Rays in a 1:05 p.m. ET start at Charlotte Sports Park. Left-hander David Price is set to start for Tampa Bay.

Injury update: The Twins placed left-hander Scott Diamond (elbow) and right-hander Anthony Swarzak (ribs) on the 15-day disabled list on Friday, as both pitchers won’t be ready for the start of the season. … Left-hander Rafael Perez threw off a mound for the second time this week.

Twins-Rays postponed due to rain

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Twins’ scheduled game against the Rays on Wednesday night at Hammond Stadium was postponed due to rain, marking the second straight Twins game affected by weather, as Monday’s game against the Marlins was called after five innings because of rain.

The rain forced the Twins to adjust their schedule, as right-hander Mike Pelfrey was slated to start against the Rays but will instead travel to Sarasota to pitch against Baltimore’s Triple-A affiliate on Thursday.

Right-hander Liam Hendriks will make his scheduled start against the Yankees in a night game at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa.

Several Twins players will stay back at the club’s Spring Training complex and play in Minor League games such as Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, Josh Willingham, Jamey Carroll and Trevor Plouffe. But the travel list to Tampa was not altered as a result of the rainout.

“They’ll all be hitting and playing in Minor League games all over the place,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “And all the guys we had going on the trip are going.”

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