FORT MYERS, FLA. - Twins righthander Scott Baker threw just three innings and 49 pitches on Wednesday, but the Twins left the door open for him to begin the season in the rotation.

Baker, slowed this spring by a strained lat muscle and later a strength-sapping flu, pitched for Class AAA Rochester in a minor league game. He gave up three runs in the third inning, partially because of bad defense.

His strength is not up to his standards, and he needs to be able to throw 85-90 pitches in a game. But the Twins, who are expected to leave lefthander Francisco Liriano behind when camp breaks, would rather bring Baker north than recall a pitcher from the minors to replace him.

"He said he could have went back out there,'' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Next time probably go 70-75 [pitches] and probably expect him to start on Friday [April 4 against the Royals]. He says he is feeling stronger and said his next start he should have all his energy back.''

Baker lost more than 10 pounds because of the flu.

Little scare

Carlos Gomez hobbled off the field after making a running catch late in Wednesday's game, and many thought he had pulled his left hamstring and would miss the season opener.

It was just a cramp.

"I don't know," Gomez said. "My body fat is too low. That's why I have cramps.''

He insisted that he play today against the Reds.

"I'm ready 100 percent right now,'' he said. "I won't give a chance to anybody. I am here and I want to play.''

Bullpen handling

Twins relievers will be used in back-to-back games this week to help prepare them for the regular season, but not righthander Jesse Crain, who is coming back from shoulder surgery.

Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson said Crain won't be used in back-to-back games through at least the first month of the regular season.

What?!

Why doesn't Tampa Bay just give Jason Bartlett uniform No. 4 right now?

Bartlett went 3-for-4 against his former team on Wednesday and is batting .357 this spring. But Rays manager Joe Maddon went there while talking about Bartlett's baserunning, comparing it to that of a certain Hall of Famer from St. Paul.

"Probably the best baserunner I've seen since Paul Molitor,'' Maddon said.

Jason Bartlett, the Ignitor.

Etc.

• Deibinson Romero, one of the Twins' top third base prospects, is among minor leaguers on the trip to Sarasota today as extra players.

• Catcher Drew Butera was reassigned to the minor league camp but impressed the club with his defensive skills.

• Twins pitchers shot a commercial for the club on one of the back fields. They were asked to sing, and sing with feeling. "That's the hardest I've laughed in a long time,'' Baker said.

Up next

Boof Bonser, who is 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA, gets his final spring tuneup today, as the Twins face the Reds in Sarasota.