Twins are shaken from the start

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 2, 2011 - 1:13 AM

Toronto exploited Tsuyoshi Nishioka's admitted jitters and pounded Carl Pavano and the Twins.

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TORONTO - It was the worst season opener in the Twins' 51-year history, or at least their most lopsided loss, and adding to their misery Friday night, the game kept getting interrupted by Blue Jays fans throwing white rally towels and other objects onto the field.

One fan threw a lime that hit manager Ron Gardenhire in the dugout.

"If they throw a lime, they should throw a cocktail with it," Gardenhire said after his team's 13-3 loss in front of a sellout crowd at Rogers Centre.

He watched his infield defense fumble through Toronto's four-run first inning, when newcomer Tsuyoshi Nishioka looked especially nervous. Carl Pavano couldn't stop the damage, and the Blue Jays added three home runs to finish him by the fifth inning.

The previous Opening Day low point for the Twins was a 9-0 drubbing at Boston in 1995, a game that left Minnesota fans longing for the replacement players after a long work stoppage.

At least the Twins won't have to chew on this one for long. Francisco Liriano takes on the Blue Jays on Saturday, when the teams meet at noon Twin Cities time.

"It's unfortunate I couldn't get us off on the right foot; I did a poor job out there today," said Pavano, who allowed eight runs (seven earned) and six hits in four-plus innings, including long home runs by J.P. Arencibia, Jose Bautista and Adam Lind.

Ricky Romero held the Twins to three runs (one earned) with seven strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings, and Arencibia, Toronto's rookie catcher, went 3-for-4 with a triple, two homers and five RBI.

But those were hardly the most disturbing developments for the Twins. The first inning was enough to shake a team's confidence, especially a team that prides itself on defense.

Toronto's speedy new leadoff man, Rajai Davis, reached on an infield single, beating a throw from shortstop Alexi Casilla. Davis stole 50 bases for Oakland last year, but Pavano made a quick pickoff move, catching him in a run-down.

Justin Morneau, back from his concussion and playing his first regular-season game since July 7, hurried his throw to Nishioka, who hesitated before throwing it back to Pavano at first, as Davis slid back safely.

"Maybe [Morneau] threw it too soon, and Nishi threw it too high," Gardenhire said. "It was just a really crappy run-down, let's put it that way."

Nishioka was a three-time Gold Glove Award winner in Japan. Before the game, he admitted he was much more nervous than he remembered being before openers for Chiba Lotte Marines, and this misplay seemed to unsettle Pavano.

"It's my responsibility," Nishioka said through a translator. "I kind of broke the pitcher's rhythm."

A single and a walk loaded the bases, before Pavano hit Lind with a pitch, bringing home the first run. Toronto used two sacrifice flies to make it 3-0 before Travis Snider hit a hard bouncer that handcuffed Nishioka, bouncing into center field. A fourth run scored on the error, and moments later, Pavano committed his first balk since 2008 before finally escaping the inning.

"It's not my first bad game, and it's not [Nishioka's] first time he's had a rough first inning," Pavano said. "We're professionals, and we'll turn the page. We've got a lot of baseball left."

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