Working his way back from right elbow tendinitis, Scott Baker fired 47 pitches in a bullpen session Monday and was cleared to make a minor league start Thursday.
Baker will pitch only two innings in that start, but it's conceivable he could build his pitch count enough to make his scheduled regular-season debut April 9.
If all goes well, Baker could pitch three innings Saturday, four innings March 30 and five innings April 4, enabling him to pitch up to six innings in the April 9 home opener against the Angels.
But the Twins have contingency plans in case Baker opens on the disabled list or gets skipped the first time through the rotation. General Manager Terry Ryan said Liam Hendriks, Anthony Swarzak and Matt Maloney are among the pitchers who will be stretched out enough to make a start.
Baker said his elbow feels better and he's determined to avoid the DL. "I don't feel I've missed enough time to where I need to backtrack," he said.
Marquis' hits pile up
Jason Marquis gave up three runs on five hits over four innings in an 8-4 victory over the Red Sox, leaving his ERA at 8.53. He has given up 19 hits in 122/3 innings this spring.
"I made my pitches today, got the results I wanted to, keeping the ball on the ground," the veteran righthander said.
Manager Ron Gardenhire didn't seem too worried either, saying: "I like what he's doing. He feels good. The ball's sinking; that's good."
Roster gets trimmed
Besides Tsuyoshi Nishioka, the Twins also optioned reliever Carlos Gutierrez and outfielder Rene Tosoni to Class AAA Rochester. The team reassigned nine others to minor league camp: pitchers Jason Bulger, Luis Perdomo, Daryl Thompson, Esmerling Vasquez and P.J. Walters; catchers Chris Herrmann and Dan Rohlfing; infielder Aaron Bates; and outfielder Wilkin Ramirez.
The Twins have 45 players on their spring training roster.
• Joe Benson hit a three-run double in the sixth inning off Boston's Mark Melancon, putting the Twins up for good.
• Brian Duensing pitched two innings in a minor league start vs. Baltimore's Class AAA squad, giving up one earned run on one hit with a walk and three strikeouts.
• Trevor Plouffe (strained right hamstring) had a similar injury last year, which forced him to miss three games. He said this strain is no worse.
• Reliever Phil Dumatrait is day-to-day because of a tender left shoulder.
The Twins have their lone off day of the spring Tuesday. On Wednesday, Hendriks will start opposite Detroit's Andy Oliver in Lakeland, Fla.
JOE CHRISTENSEN AND LA VELLE E. NEAL III