TAMPA, FLA. – Righthander Liam Hendriks needed a strong outing on Thursday night, as he is in the heat of the battle for a place in the starting rotation.
Mixing pitches like he was asked to, Hendriks had one of his best starts of camp. He held the Yankees hitless through 3 1/3 innings, giving up only one unearned run over five innings. And it was a Yankees team that had Ichiro Suzuki, Robinson Cano and Kevin Youkilis in the lineup.
“I was throwing offspeed pitches for strikes, every one of my pitches for strikes,’’ he said.
Hendriks needs to find the right mix with his pitches, and he believed he did that Thursday. He threw sliders to righthanded hitters and curveballs to lefthanded ones.
Hendriks, with a 4.74 ERA this spring, can still be factor in the race for a roster spot. “I was gripping the ball too tight and I was choking it and trying to throw it as hard as I could every time,’’ he said. “It’s just not the way I throw my offspeed stuff. I need to relax and take it nice and easy.”
Plouffe is ready
Third baseman Trevor Plouffe made it through five innings without incident Thursday. With his strained right calf muscle now healed, Plouffe is set to rejoin the Twins on Friday when they play host to the Yankees in Fort Myers.
Plouffe has injured his calf twice during camp while doing agility drills.
“Plouffe played, got one hit and ran the bases,’’ manager Ron Gardenhire said. “I’ve got him playing third base [Friday] if everything went well.’’
Getting work in
With an off day Tuesday followed by a rainout Wednesday, the goal Thursday was to get players game action.
Righthander Mike Pelfrey and catcher Joe Mauer traveled with Class AAA Rochester to Sarasota to face the Orioles farm team there. Pelfrey gave up three runs over five innings on seven hits, including two home runs. Mauer was 1-for-2.
Josh Willingham, Jamey Carroll, Ryan Doumit and Justin Morneau all played in a minor league game at the Lee County Sports Complex, each getting two at-bats.
Closer Glen Perkins pitched a scoreless inning in minor league action, striking out three. That’s six consecutive strikeouts for Perkins this week.
• Lefthander Scott Diamond, on the comeback trail after offseason elbow surgery, is scheduled to pitch in a minor league game Saturday.
• Retiring Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, who missed most of last season because of a torn knee ligament, gave up a leadoff single to Darin Mastroianni in the fifth inning but struck out the next three batters.