DUNEDIN, FLA. - For three games, he looked at each of the front-runners individually. So on Day 4, Ron Gardenhire decided to watch all of his center fielders together.
The result? Barely a square foot of outfield grass left uncovered, and an offense fueled by the three wannabes. In fact, half of the Twins' runs were driven in by a center-field candidate.
Joe Benson smashed a fat fastball well beyond the left-field wall, Aaron Hicks battered the right-field wall with a rocket of his own and later added an RBI single, and Darin Mastroianni singled Hicks home for another run, helping the Twins win their second straight Grapefruit League game, 8-4 over the Toronto Blue Jays.
Justin Morneau had his second straight two-hit game, delighting a crowd of Canadians, with a single and an RBI double, and Trevor Plouffe debuted by driving in a run. But it was the trio of potential center fielders who earned the attention.
"It was crazy. Mastro and I were talking -- that probably was one of the fastest outfields you'll see this spring training, anywhere," Benson said. "It was fun being out there with both of them."
It was fun for the manager, too, even though he's the guy facing a difficult decision -- who's my guy? -- a month from now. "They're all doing fine," Ron Gardenhire said. "I thought we ran the ball down really well out there."
Nobody could run down the ball Benson hit, a "little cutter" from Jays starter Ricky Romero that the former second-round pick was looking for. It cleared some trees beyond the left-field wall, drawing an appreciative "Ooooo ... " from even the Toronto fans.
"It was nice. I got a hit in the B game the other day and it felt good to run the bases," Benson said, "but it felt even better to get a hit today in an actual spring training game."
So what do we call these speedy guys? Shouldn't they have a nickname?
"No, we're not that creative," Benson said. "But we all know we can run pretty well."