ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. – Phil Hughes was down 2-0 after 10 pitches. A potential replacement started warming up in the bullpen. And, on a day the Twins could ill afford a short outing, Hughes needed 35 pitches to get his first three outs.
“It wasn’t exactly the first inning I was hoping for,” he said.
Returning to action for the first time since having surgery to treat thoracic outlet syndrome, Hughes lasted only 3 ⅓ innings Sunday in his first start in 11 months. He gave up two runs on five hits and two walks with two strikeouts.
“Didn’t really give me a chance to go as deep as I would have liked,” he said.
He walked leadoff batter Denard Span, then threw a fastball down and in to C.J. Cron. As Kyle Gibson found out Saturday, that is Cron’s happy place. The slugger took an easy swing and drove the ball over the left-center field wall for his third two-run homer in two days.
Hughes walked Brad Miller and gave up a single to Daniel Robertson. There was one out. Twins manager Paul Molitor showed little patience and had Trevor Hildenberger warming up. Hughes recovered by striking out Joey Wendle on three pitches, but Jesus Sucre singled to right, and it looked like Molitor was about to make a first-inning pitching change.
But Miller rounded third and pulled up lame about 15 feet from the bag. He couldn’t get back before Eduardo Escobar received a throw and tagged him out. Instead of the bases being loaded, Hughes was out of the inning.
“He was kind of able to get back on track and give us at least a little more,” Molitor said.
Hughes, whose fastball topped out at 90 miles per hour, retired six in a row to get to the fourth inning, but was pulled after three batters, leaving runners at the corners.
“That first inning really put a burn on the bullpen,” he said. “Can’t be doing that. But it feels good to be back, that’s for sure.”
Buxton on rehab
The Twins, satisfied with how Byron Buxton is recovering from his migraine, sent the center fielder on a minor league rehabilitation assignment to Class A Fort Myers.
Buxton, who was placed on the disabled list Wednesday (retroactive to April 15), took batting practice Saturday and gradually felt better as the afternoon progressed. So the Twins got him a rental car and he headed to Bradenton, where the Miracle was playing Sunday.
Buxton started as the designated hitter and batted second in the order. In four plate appearances, he lined out to second and flied out to right three times.
“Full steam ahead,” Molitor said. “With the plan to play center field Monday and Tuesday.”
The Twins hope Buxton can come off the 10-day disabled list Wednesday and join the team in New York for the final two games against the Yankees.
Record for Dozier
Twins second baseman Brian Dozier singled to left in the third inning and landed in the record books.
That hit put Dozier’s hitting streak at 16 games, a club record for the longest streak to start a season. Kirby Puckett (1994) and Josh Willingham (2012) held the old record of 15.
Dozier also has a hit in 23 consecutive games going back to last season.
Foley’s NY Pub and Restaurant, which touts itself as “An Irish Bar with a Baseball Attitude,” is featuring a burger this week while the Twins are in New York. And they are naming it after former Twins bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek, who was good friends with Shaun Clancy, owner of the Manhattan-based pub.
The burger, called “The Stelly,” is a Juicy Lucy.
Stelmaszek, who frequented the pub whenever the Twins came to town, died in November after a battle with cancer at age 69.