Baker, Blackburn go in B game
FORT MYERS. FLA. - It was just a B game, but it was an important one for Twins righthanders Scott Baker and Nick Blackburn.
Both starters battled injuries last year but got off to a good start Thursday, with each pitching an inning in a 6-5 Twins victory over the Red Sox at Hammond Stadium.
Baker gave up a home run to Ryan Lavarnway but got through his inning feeling good. Baker landed on the disabled list twice during the second half of the 2011 season because of a flexor strain.
"Even though it's a B game, there's a little adrenaline going and I was a little jumpy at times," Baker said. "As long as I'm healthy and I feel the ball is coming out of my hand good, then I'm happy with it."
Blackburn hasn't faced opposing hitters since Aug. 21, when he lasted 11/3 innings. He landed on the disabled list because of a forearm strain and eventually had surgery to decompress a nerve.
"It was good to get out there and work on stuff," he said, "but I don't feel like I needed to do that more so this spring than any other."
Carlos Gutierrez struggled, giving up two runs over two-thirds of an inning on one hit and three walks. "I think we all saw that the game stopped when he was out there," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "That can't happen."
The Twins ran through a few game situations on another field, enabling them to brush up on all the drills they have worked on over the past week and a half.
Pitchers faced hitters, and Gardenhire stopped play at times to send baserunners onto the field to go over scenarios.
Trevor Plouffe did hit a home run during the simulated game. On the play, Denard Span crashed into the center field fence. Span missed significant time last year because of a concussion.
Span, who had a swollen lip, waved off Gardenhire as he went onto the field.
"He told me, 'I just have a fat face,' " Gardenhire said.
• Carl Pavano will start Saturday's spring opener against Tampa Bay. Terry Doyle will start Sunday against Boston in one of the Twins' split-squad games. Francisco Liriano will travel to Port Charlotte and face the Rays in the other game.
• The umpires for the B game were about an hour late because of a mixup. Twins third base coach Steve Liddle put on catcher's gear and called balls and strikes while a member of the grounds crew worked second base. The umps eventually showed up, but when Ray Chang was called out on strikes in the third inning on a questionable call, fans began cheering for Liddle to be brought back.
2011 stats: .287, 11 homers, 36 RBI in 81 games at Class AAA Gwinnett; .231 in 20 games with Atlanta.
Tidbits: Originally signed by Detroit, Baseball America had him ranked in their top 10 prospects for several seasons, and he was its top power prospect in 2005. ... His first major league hit was a home run off Texas' Matt Harrison in 2009. ... He's only had 35 games and 37 at-bats in the majors. ... He's a nonroster invite to camp.
LA VELLE E. NEAL III