FORT MYERS, FLA. – Justin Morneau will never live it down. He faced two of his closest friends in a big World Baseball Classic moment, and though his ground ball off Glen Perkins found a hole, Team Canada lost to Perkins, Joe Mauer and the Americans.
The teasing must be relentless, right?
“There’s no real trash-talking,” Morneau said with a shrug Wednesday, shortly before he returned to the Twins lineup. “Probably the three guys who talk the least amount of trash would be me, Joe and Perk. We’re respectful.”
Well, unless Canada wins. “That would have been a huge deal,” Morneau grinned. “Maybe there would have been a little bit more trash-talking from me.”
Still, Morneau said the WBC was “a good experience. … When you’re there and you’re caught up in it, it’s like playoff baseball. It’s a lot of fun.”
Except for the fight. Morneau said he regretted that the brawl between Mexico and Canada was what most people will remember of Canada’s participation, but “we don’t feel like we were in the wrong.” The Mexicans took exception when Canada, mindful that WBC tiebreakers can come down to cumulative runs, kept trying to score with a 9-3 lead. When Arnold Leon hit former Twins outfielder Rene Tosoni in the back with a pitch, both benches emptied and “I was in the middle somewhere,” Morneau said. “We had to stick up for ourselves.”
Eduardo Escobar played third base Wednesday, but he spent part of his afternoon trying out something else. For a half hour, Escobar squatted in a batting cage, receiving baseballs from a pitching machine. That’s part of his training to be an emergency catcher, one of Ron Gardenhire’s pet projects this spring.
Gardenhire is determined to add better hitting, and perhaps some power, to the Twins bench this spring, but roster spots are few. One way to free up a spot is to carry only Mauer and Ryan Doumit at catcher, but that plan requires someone on the roster able to fill in for a few innings in an emergency. Escobar is that guy.
Why? White Sox manager Robin Ventura had the same idea last summer, and asked his least-used utility man, Escobar, to give it a try. The 24-year-old infielder practiced in the bullpen but never caught in a game.
In fact, he’s never caught in a game at any level. “But I’m utility man. I like it,” the Venezuelan said. “In Chicago, I say, ‘I play everywhere. I play outfield, too. I’ll catch.’ ”
Deolis Guerra was airlifted to Tampa General Hospital in a medical helicopter, General Manager Terry Ryan said, standard procedure for transporting patients with blood clots. Guerra will remain hospitalized until doctors are ready to remove his first right rib “in a couple days,” Ryan said. But he definitely expects the Venezuelan righthander to pitch again this summer.
Mike Pelfrey, who has pitched six consecutive scoreless innings, faces Ryan Dempster and the Red Sox at Hammond Stadium.