Phil Miller covered three seasons of Twins baseball, but that was at a different ballpark for a different newspaper. Now Miller returns to the baseball beat after joining the Star Tribune as the Gopher football writer in 2010, and he won't miss the dingy dome for a minute. In addition to the Twins and Gophers, Miller covered the Utah Jazz and the NBA for six years at The Salt Lake Tribune.
PORT CHARLOTTE, FLA. -- Sunday's game was the first without the 13 Twins who are competing in the World Baseball Classic, and to manager Ron Gardenhire, it has to seem a lot like the recent injury-ravaged regular seasons, when he was piecing together new lineups every day.
"When you lose [that many] people, it makes it a little difficult," Gardenhire said. "And if you think today is interesting ... "
Yeah, things are a little thin, and granting days off to keep them fresh will exacerbate the problem. Without Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer, the lineup against the Rays included a 3-4-5 of Josh Willingham, Ryan Doumit and Trevor Plouffe, a reasonable approximation of the regular season. But some players will get moved around over the next couple of weeks.
Catcher Dan Rohlfing, for instance, played first base in the last couple of innings, a position he's manned exactly eight times during his six-year career.
"You'll get to see different people all over the place," Gardnehire said. He pointed out that left-handed Jeff Clement started at first base against Cy Young lefthander David Price on Sunday, and "it's not that fair," the manager said. "But you might as well see if he can hit that guy, too."
He didn't, taking a called third strike in his lone at-bat against Price.
Mike Pelfrey pitched well, too, but there wasn't much else notable for Twins fans in this game, a 7-2 loss to the Rays. Trevor Plouffe had two hits to raise his spring average to .400, and he drove in Brian Dozier with a run. Aaron Hicks went 0-for-3, and on a sacrifice fly to center field, did a good job of getting behind the ball to give himself a chance to throw the runner out. But his throw drifted toward first base, and the run scored without a play.
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