Minnesota Twins Drop First Two Games of Spring

Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports /

Early Returns Have Twins Competitive, Yet Familiar Results Continue

Finally! The actual playing of baseball has returned, albeit exhibition games in Florida and Arizona. The Twins opened their Grapefruit League season by dropping their home opener 3-1, before falling to fellow Ft. Myers-dweller, the Boston Red Sox, 8-7.

In the opener, the Twins were held scoreless until the bottom of the ninth inning. Against Boston, the Minnesota blew a 7-2 lead as the Red Sox scored the tie-breaking run in their last at-bat.

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Twins’ skipper, Paul Molitor, reported no injuries through two games, and he was able to get in the required work for all of his pitchers. In these games that don’t count, those are often the two biggest worries for any manager.

Of course they would like a win, too, but as last year’s record in Grapefruit League proved (second only to Toronto in wins), wins and losses can be deceiving in the Florida sun.

Kevin Gibson started for Minnesota against Tampa Bay in the opener (no runs in 1.2 innings), but Molitor has hinted that the season opener is all but Ervin Santana‘s.

Phil Hughes took the mound for the first time since breaking his leg last Summer, and had a shaky introduction. Hughes allowed three hits – two doubles – to the first four batters, accounting for the two runs on his ledger in two full innings pitched.

Byungho Park Shines

Fresh off a new spelling of his first name, two separate names last year – either Byung-ho or Byung Ho last year – Park knocked the ball all around the park both Friday night and Saturday.

Against Tampa Bay, he was 2-2, including a double to the opposite field. Both hits came off 93 mph fastballs, a pitch he had trouble catching up to during his rookie season.

He also hit the Twins’ first home run of the Spring against Boston lefty starter Roenis Elias – a bomb to center field to lead off the second inning.

His second at-bat produced another run in the third inning. Molitor was just as impressed with Park’s two-strike sacrifice fly with runners on second and third and one out. The deep drive off righty Tyler Thornburg gave Minnesota their first lead of the Spring, 3-2.

Park’s day was done after grounding out in the fifth. He’s 3-4 in the two games, with a single, double, home run, and the sacrifice fly in his five at-bats. Don’t count the Korean slugger out yet. While he’s no longer on the 40-man roster, a good-to-great Spring could see him make the trip North once again.

Drew Stubbs Homers

Stubbs completed the Twins scoring with a drive over the right-center field wall in the top of the fifth inning, giving the Twins their largest lead at 7-2. He’s in competition for the fourth outfield spot with numerous others, including Eddie Rosario, Danny Santana, and J. B. Schuck.

Santana played right field Saturday, going 1-2 with a run scored and an RBI single during the Twins’ five-run fifth. Rosario and Schuck split left field duties Friday night, going a combined 0-5 with two strikeouts and stranding five runners.

Quick Takeaways

Byron Buxton led off Friday’s opener, and looked sharp at the plate, going 1-2 with a double. The out was a hard line drive. Look for Buxton to get a long look at Buck at the top of order throughout March. Coaches would love Buxton’s speed at the top of the lineup, as long as he can improve his on-base percentage.

Two noticeable players that have yet to play: Joe Mauer and Brian Dozier. Molitor said that he plans on playing Dozier “maybe Monday”, and Mauer next Wednesday.

Twins non-roster invitees were on the field during most of Boston’s comeback, and it showed. There were some misplays in the field that allowed runners to advance extra bases, and backing up throws looked to be optional.

Ryan Pressly hit two of the four batters he faced, including Allen Craig, who was also hit in the head in a scary moment during the eighth inning by J.T. Chargois. Chargois was saddled with the loss after giving up a lead-off double, a swinging bunt, and the hit batter to put runners on first and second with one out.

Boston’s manager, John Farrell, had Craig running with lefty Brian Bogusevic batting. The hole created by shortstop Nick Gordon leaving to cover second base is exactly where Bogusevic’s slow roller went on its way to left field to drive in the winning run.

Next: Twins Top 10 Countdown: #5 Alex Kirilloff

Up Next: Twins (0-2) host the Washington Nationals (1-0) at Hammond Field. The Nationals defeated the New York Mets 8-6 in their debut.