Twins' Burnett thrilled by better outing

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Minnesota Twins right hand pitcher Alex Burnett

Photo: Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

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JUPITER, FLA. — Twins righthanded reliever Alex Burnett spent a lot of time in the bullpen Thursday with pitching coach Rick Anderson going over his mechanics.

"What was going on was I really wasn't using my legs," Burnett said. "I was trying to throw with my whole upper body, so I didn't have any direction or any action on any of my pitches."

On Saturday, he took those lessons -- as well as a 16.85 ERA -- to the mound against a Marlins split squad. Burnett pitched a 11/3 scoreless innings in the Twins' 5-2 victory, getting him to a place he can take off from.

He gave up a single to Chris Coghlan but picked him off during an easy sixth inning.

"I felt really strong, a million times better than when I was out there before," Burnett said. "Probably one of my better days of spring."

In 107 major league games over the past two seasons, Burnett has a 5.40 ERA. But the Twins remain convinced that Burnett can develop into a good reliever.

"He's fearless and will come at you," Anderson said. "His stuff is alive. And if he ever gets command of his pitches, he can be one of the better ones around, I think."

The 24-year-old Burnett believes he can become a reliever the club can rely on, especially this spring, as the Twins are looking at several arms to fill out the bullpen.

He knows that up until this point, he has failed to show them what he can do.

"This was probably one of the worst springs I've ever had," he said. "So I wasn't used to it and I was getting frustrated with myself out on the mound. But take it day by day and work on whatever we need to work on to get better."

Good day for Baker

Twins righthander Scott Baker gave two thumbs up after testing his injured right elbow with 52 pitches, including 15 warm-up tosses, in a bullpen session Saturday in Fort Myers.

Baker, who has been dealing with elbow tendinitis, said he was throwing with about 75-80 percent effort. He will have another bullpen session Monday, and if that goes well, he could be ready to start an exhibition game Thursday.

"Monday will be more of a max effort bullpen," Baker said. "So as long as I recover [Sunday], then that's what we'll do."

Baker guessed that if all goes well, he probably would throw about 40 pitches in Thursday's game.

It remains uncertain whether Baker will be ready to make his first scheduled start of the season, in the April 9 home opener against the Angels. On Friday, Baker acknowledged that he might have to open the season on the disabled list, but either way, Saturday was regarded as a positive step.

On deck

The Twins have a B game at 9 a.m. against Pittsburgh before their 12:05 p.m. game against the Pirates in Fort Myers. Sam Deduno and Casey Fein are scheduled to pitch in the B game. Francisco Liriano will face Pirates righthander Charlie Morton in the official game.

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