'Slowhand' Ortiz credits Anderson
Ramon Ortiz was his usual enthusiastic self after lowering his ERA to 0.75 Thursday, and the main target of his affection was Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson.
"Let me tell you about this pitching coach," Ortiz said, "I like him a lot. He's unbelievable. He's patient about everything. I feel very comfortable with everything he's teaching me. I love this guy."
Ortiz said Anderson has counseled him about slowing himself down when he gets into a jam. Too often in Ortiz's career, one bad inning has been his undoing.
"I don't think now that I have to throw 100 miles per hour," Ortiz said. "I say, 'Let me throw a good pitch.'"
PICK A NUMBER
Johan Santana is on schedule to pitch every fifth day until the April 2 season opener against Baltimore. For now, Carlos Silva is on track to follow him April 3, followed by Ortiz on April 4.
Sidney Ponson and Matt Garza, both scheduled to pitch today, appear to be battling for the No. 4 slot. Boof Bonser, who is scheduled to pitch Saturday, appears slotted in at No. 5. All this is obviously subject to change, and Gardenhire remained noncommittal.
"Nothing's a lock after Santana," he said. "We like Ortiz. He's as close [as they have] to the next lock. Silva, he's close to a lock. We still want to see a little more out of him."
Alejandro Machado's recovery from right shoulder tendinitis remains painfully slow.
"He's got a nice smile on his face, and he's pleasantly comfortable on the bench right now," Gardenhire said.
Meantime, two other utility infield candidates -- Alexi Casilla and Tommy Watkins -- combined for three errors Thursday. Casilla's was the most disturbing. He fielded a routine grounder in the first inning and airmailed his throw over first baseman Justin Morneau's head.
"[Casilla] can really play out there, but we see a lot of funny things, and that's why I'm a little nervous about my middle infield," Gardenhire said.
Rondell White was walking with a slight limp after getting hit with a pitch in the left knee Monday night. "It's nothing serious," White said. "I'll be all right. Put some Robitussin on it."
Joe Nathan and Jesse Crain each pitched a scoreless inning in a minor league game Thursday.
Twins starters have combined to post a 1.29 ERA over their past 11 games. ... Pat Neshek has yet to allow a run this spring in six innings pitched.
Randy Choate (11.12 ERA) loaded the bases before getting a game-ending double play ball for the save. He faced all righthanded hitters, so it wasn't a true test for this lefthanded relief candidate. Watkins also made a key error in the inning, but Choate still hasn't found a groove.
The Twins face the Orioles again today in Fort Lauderdale.