Watch out for the machine!
FORT MYERS, FLA. - Poor Eric Fryer. Not only is the former Pittsburgh Pirates catcher trying to catch the attention of his new coaches and win a job, but on Sunday he had to contend with strong, blustery winds and some operator error during a popup drill.
Fryer and the other eight catchers at Twins camp were taking turns settling under balls rocketed 100 feet into the air by a pitching machine near Hammond Stadium's home plate, a task made considerably harder by the howling winds. The small crowd of fans was shocked when even Joe Mauer dropped one.
But Fryer had it the worst. Bench coach and former catcher Terry Steinbach sent his pop fly up at an angle that caused the wind to drive it right back down onto the machine. As Fryer backpedaled, Steinbach had to step in and block him from running into the machine.
And then he put another in the exact same spot.
"The wind and the high sky make the ball look like a golf ball up there, and then Steiny hitting the machine -- all of those made for elements that made it tough," manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Hitting coach Tom Brunansky apparently couldn't understand what was so tough, so the former outfielder grabbed a glove and took a turn, too. Whoops.
"Bruno didn't come close to any of them," Gardenhire said, shaking his head.
Still, it was a valuable drill on a chilly Florida morning, and the manager was happy with the day's progress overall.
"Guys were really locked in. It was fun to watch," Gardenhire said. "It was the best [practice] yet."
The intensity will pick up more on Monday, when the Twins, after taking physicals before practice, will add live batting practice to their workouts.
• Veteran righthander Rich Harden didn't pitch a bullpen session with his regular group, but the day off was a planned break to make sure his shoulder isn't overworked. Harden said he will pitch batting practice as scheduled on Tuesday.
• Newly signed lefthander Rafael Perez pitched for the first time with his new team, and had a big grin on his face as he finished. "He was into it. I think he's just happy to be back on a mound" after shoulder surgery last September, Gardenhire said. "He missed some time, and so he's excited about being here."
Acquired: As a minor league free agent Dec. 7.
2012 stats: Three saves, 40 strikeouts and a 3.59 ERA in 422/3 innings for Class AAA Durham (Rays).
Role: He's a middle-of-the-bullpen candidate whose 6-6 size and low three-quarters release make him particularly tough on righthanded hitters.
Did you know? He retired the first 23 hitters he faced in his third collegiate start for Florida, as a sophomore in 2006.