Minnesota Twins Spring Training: Mauer And Morneau In Lineup For Twins

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Mauer And Morneau Both In Lineup As Twins Take On Mets

For the first time since July 7, 2010, Ron Gardenhire was able to pencil both Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau into his lineup card for the Minnesota Twins, as Mauer played the designated hitter role in the Twins' game this afternoon against the New York Mets.

Mauer is also scheduled to catch a minor league game tomorrow, and has no doubts that he will be ready for Opening Day in Toronto on April 1.

The lineup that Ron Gardenhire put out onto the field today looks a lot like what we can probably expect for that Opening Day lineup as well, with the obvious exception of Mauer being penciled in behind the plate and someone else taking on the DH role. Here's what the Twins went with for their lineup today.

Denard Span, center field
Tsuyoshi Nishioka, second base
Joe Mauer, designated hitter
Justin Morneay, first base
Delmon Young, left field
Danny Valencia, third base
Jason Kubel, right field
Steve Holm, catcher
Alexi Casilla, shortstop

My guess is that by Opening Day, we'll see Michael Cuddyer in right, Mauer behind the plate, and Kubel or Jim Thome in that designated hitter spot.

In any event, it's very good to see the hometown boy back in the lineup again. Opening Day can't possibly get here soon enough.


Morneau Starts Twins "B" Game Against Pirates

They're the words that Twins fans have been waiting to hear since last July 7.

Justin Morneau was in the starting lineup today, batting fourth, just like we've become accustomed to.

According to Seth Livingston of USA Today, Morneau was in the lineup and playing first base today as the Minnesota Twins took on the Pittsburgh Pirates today in Fort Myers, Florida. It wasn't in the main game, but rather against the Pirates' "B team" on a back field at the Lee County Sports Complex.

In his second at-bat of the day, Morneau laced a bases-clearing double. He also didn't have any difficulties in the field, from all accounts.

Morneau was hitting .345 with 18 home runs for the Twins in 2010 when he took a knee to the head in Toronto and didn't play the rest of the season.

Our friends at Twinkie Town will obviously have more about the return of the 2006 American League MVP.

In the meantime, let me just say. . ."Welcome back, Justin!"


Twins Shut Out Orioles, 3-0

Brian Duensing looked sharp in his three innings of work this afternoon, allowing just two hits, as he and five other Minnesota pitchers combined to shut out the Baltimore Orioles, 3-0.

The Orioles didn't register a hit after the fifth inning of play today.

Minnesota got another solid performance from Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who went 2-for-3 on the afternoon, and got his first triple of the spring. Nishioka drove in two of the Twins' three runs on the day, with Luke Hughes driving in the other run. Hughes got the Twins started in the first with a single that scored Danny Valencia. Nishioka's RBI came in the third, when singled to right to score Alexi Casilla, and in the fifth, when his triple brought Denard Span home.

After Duensing's three innings of work, Scott Diamond entered the game and pitched two shutout innings, allowing only two hits. After Diamond, Dusty Hughes, Jim Hoey, Chuck James, and Anthony Swarzak pitched one hitless inning each, in that order.

Minnesota is now 6-2 on the spring, while the Orioles are now 4-2.


Blackburn Sharp In Twins Victory Over Rays

Ron Gardenhire said today that Nick Blackburn would be a part of the starting rotation this season, and he looked sharp today in the Twins' 6-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Blackburn didn't give up a hit in three innings while striking out two, and retired five of the seven hitters he didn't strike out on ground ball outs. He was followed up by Matt Capps and Pat Neshek, each of whom threw one hitless inning of relief. The only Twins pitcher to give up a run on the day was Jeff Manship, who allowed a sixth-inning sacrifice fly to Rays catcher John Jaso.

The Twins got on the board early, scoring five runs in the first three innings, including a huge solo blast from first baseman Chris Parmalee in the third inning. Unfortunately, Parmalee also took home the golden sombrero for the afternoon, as his other four at-bats all ended in strikeouts.

The Twins' record for the spring thus far moves to 5-2 with their win today, while the Rays drop to 1-6.

In other news, Delmon Young has suffered a setback to his turf toe injury, and is now out indefinitely. Hopefully this setback will be a temporary one, and Delmon will be in the lineup again before the Twins head to Toronto for the season opener.


Twins Defeat Rays, 5-4, In Spring Training Action

Minnesota got some impressive pitching early and held on late to defeat the Tampa Bay Rays in Spring Training action today by a score of 5-4.

Minnesota opened the scoring in the bottom of the third inning when Tsuyoshi Nishioka singled off of Mike Ekstrom, stole second, and came around to score on Jason Kubel's single. Kubel racked up two more RBI in the fifth with a double off of Dane De La Rosa, scoring Brian Dozier (who was running for Nishioka) and Denard Span.

Tampa Bay lit up the Twins' Eric Hacker in the top of the sixth, touching him up for three runs after Hacker gave up three consecutive singles to start the frame. By the time the sixth was over, the Rays had tied the game at three, and they took the lead in the top of the seventh when Justin Ruggiano led off the inning with a triple off of Kyle Gibson, and scored on Chris Carter's fielders choice.

Minnesota came back, however, getting two runs in the bottom of the eighth courtesy of a single by Ben Revere and a sacrifice fly by Chase Lambin to provide the final score of 5-4. Carlos Gutierrez pitched a hitless ninth to pick up the save.

As I mentioned, the Twins' early pitching was impressive, as Kevin Slowey (three innings), Jose Mijares (one inning) and Joe Nathan (one inning) combined to allow just one hit over five innings, that being a first inning double that Slowey surrendered to Manny Ramirez.

The Twins and the Rays will face off again tomorrow.


Pavano Pitches Three Scoreless Innings In Twins' 2-0 Win Over Baltimore

The Twins' pitching staff put together a solid performance this afternoon, to say the least. Led by Carl Pavano's three scoreless innings, the Twins allowed only five hits as they shut out the Orioles by a score of 2-0.

Pavano needed only 27 pitches to retire the Orioles, allowing only one hit in those three innings.

Glen Perkins came in to relieve Pavano, and allowed only two hits in two innings of work. Chuck James allowed a hit in his one inning, Jim Hoey (who wound up getting the win) allowed one hit in two innings, and Anthony Swarzak picked up the save by pitching a hitless ninth inning.

All of Minnesota's scoring happened in the seventh inning, thanks to a sacrifice fly by Brian Dozier and a single by Luke Hughes.

Also, thankfully, rumors that the famed "Pavstache" was a thing of the past appear to be unfounded, as you can see by the picture that accompanies this story.


Valencia Impressive In 4-2 Twins Victory Over Pittsburgh

After searching for what seemed like forever after the injury to Corey Koskie, it appears that the Minnesota Twins may have found their answer at the third base spot in young Danny Valencia.

Valencia doubled twice today against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Minnesota's 4-2 victory. He also made a great play to rob Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen of a base hit.

Valencia, who led all rookies in batting average last season, will be a big part of Minnesota's plans in 2011 and beyond.

A few other notes from Minnesota's victory today against the Pirates:

-Pat Neshek, Dusty Hughes, and Scott Diamond all pitched scoreless innings for the Twins this afternoon. Those two players, along with Glen Perkins, are apparently competing for left-handed relief spots in the Twins' bullpen in light of Ron Gardenhire saying he wants to move Brian Duensing into the rotation.

-Delmon Young is making progress from his turf toe, and has been cleared for running activities. Hopefully his first start will come on Saturday.

-Pat Neshek blew through a 1-2-3 fourth inning for the Twins against Pittsburgh this afternoon.


Nathan Pitches Scoreless Fourth In Twins Loss

The Minnesota Twins dropped their second straight Spring Training game today, as they fell to the Boston Red WHO CARES JOE NATHAN IS BACK!

It was nearly one year ago that Nathan tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, as it happened in a game against these same Red Sox on March 6, 2010. He underwent Tommy John surgery, and was forced to miss the entire 2010 baseball season. Today, he took the mound for the first time in game action since then, and blew his way through a scoreless fourth inning in Minnesota's 5-0 loss.

From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's recap of the game:

He received a loud ovation from the sellout crowd of 7,963 as he made his familiar jog to the mound and warmed up.

Nathan walked Jarrod Saltalamacchia around a pair of fly-ball outs, then got Drew Sutton to ground to second to end the inning.

He thew 20 pitches -- 20 of the most meaningful pitches he has thrown in some time. His adrenaline was pumping. He let all his pitches loose.

His first pitch registered 88 miles per hour on the stadium radar gun. Two of his final pitches hit 90. He did throw one pitch at 91 mph. His history is to throw a little slower than that at the start of camp.

As a Twins fan, I'm very, very happy to see Joe Nathan back in action. If the Twins can get to the eighth inning with a lead, the 1-2 punch of Nathan and Matt Capps should be able to secure a lot of victories for Minnesota.


Twins Drop 7-6 Decision To Boston Red Sox

Nick Blackburn looked good in the innings he pitched in his Spring Training debut, but the Minnesota Twins ultimately fell to the Boston Red Sox this afternoon, 7-6.

Blackburn gave up two hits in two scoreless innings, and threw 18 of his 28 pitches for strikes.

Jason Kubel opened up the scoring in the top of the first with an absolute blast to center field off of Daisuke Matsuzaka to give the Twins a 1-0 lead. Luke Hughes added a two-run homer in a three-run third to bump the Twins' lead to 4-0, but Kevin Slowey gave most of it back in the bottom of the third, thanks to a three-run homer off of the bat of David Ortiz.

The Twins added two more in the top of the fifth to make the score 6-3, but the Red Sox answered with pairs of runs in both the sixth and seventh inning to give them the final margin of victory.

These two teams will meet again tomorrow back at Minnesota's place.


Minnesota Twins Defeat Boston Red Sox, 8-4, To Open Spring Training Schedule

The Minnesota Twins got their Spring Training schedule off to a good start by defeating the Boston Red Sox by a score of 8-4.

Carl Pavano pitched a pair of scoreless innings for the Twins, giving up only one hit.

The Twins opened the scoring in the bottom of the second inning when first baseman Chris Parmalee doubled and scored on Jason Repko's triple to right field. Both teams then went scoreless until the bottom of the fifth, when the Twins put up four more runs, as Parmalee, Repko, and Alexi Casilla opened the inning with consecutive singles. Joe Benson then cleared the bases with a triple, and second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka collected his first hit and RBI as a Twin with a single that brought Benson home, giving the Twins a 5-0 lead.

The Twins would add another in the sixth, and the Red Sox would close to within 6-3 in the eighth, but would get no closer as the Twins added two more in the bottom of that frame.

All in all, it was a good start to the Spring Training schedule for Minnesota, particularly for a lineup that didn't feature Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Michael Cuddyer.

For more on the game, be sure to visit our friends at Twinkie Town for their impressions of Sunday's action.


Justin Morneau Reports To Minnesota Twins Spring Training

The full team workouts at Minnesota Twins' spring training in Fort Meyers start tomorrow, and one of the participants will, indeed, be first baseman Justin Morneau.

Morneau hasn't seen any live baseball action since July 7 of last year, when he took a knee to the head from John McDonald of the Toronto Blue Jays, causing a concussion that he's still in the process of recovering from. Morneau has said that he doesn't plan to play early in the exhibition season as his recovery continues, but he hopes to be ready for the beginning of the regular season.

Here is a video of Morneau speaking at a press conference in Fort Meyers after reporting to spring training today. Hat tip to ESPN 1500 in Minneapolis for their coverage of this story.

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