PORT CHARLOTTE, FLA. – Righthander J.R. Graham received last-minute advice from bullpen coach Eddie Guardado before making his Twins spring debut Friday.
“He said, ‘Just control yourself out there,’ ” Graham said. “Those words really stuck with me today.”
He got into trouble in the seventh inning but was able to gather himself enough to make quality pitches and throw two scoreless innings during the Twins’ 2-1 loss to Tampa Bay.
Graham, a Rule 5 draft pick, topped out at 96 miles per hour on the radar gun and also threw a good slider. He has to convince the Twins that he’s worth keeping on the major league roster. If not, he will be offered back to Atlanta, his original team. He eventually made a good impression.
He got a groundout in the seventh before issuing back-to-back walks. But he got Mayo Acosta to ground into an inning-ending double play.
“Nerves, adrenaline kicking in maybe,” Graham said. “I was rushing little bit. As soon as I settled back in I felt like I was pounding the strike zone a little bit more.”
Twins pitching coach Neil Allen was not surprised.
“He was in Double-A a year ago at this time,” Allen said of the 25-year-old Graham. “Now he is in big-league camp with a strange coaching staff and strange teammates. He’s putting pressure on himself, trying to show us what he’s got.”
The Twins have their first non-flu-related injury of the spring, as catcher Josmil Pinto has a strained right quadriceps.
“He’s day to day,” General Manager Terry Ryan said.
Pinto is the only position player to have not appeared in any of the Twins’ three exhibition games, including Wednesday’s game against the Gophers.
The Twins are looking for a backup catcher and have Pinto, Eric Fryer and Chris Herrmann among the candidates. Pinto has the weakest defense of the three but definitely the most thunder in his bat. Manager Paul Molitor is keeping an open mind as to who will be the backup to Kurt Suzuki.
Herrmann, by the way, took a foul tip off a knuckle on his right hand Thursday, but it is not considered serious.
Meyer, May behind
Two rookie righthanders vying for the No. 5 spot in the rotation, Alex Meyer and Trevor May, are playing catch-up with the other starters in camp.
Meyer missed four days when he traveled home to Indiana following the death of his grandfather. May missed two days because of the flu.
Both threw in the bullpen Friday and could be earmarked for Monday’s B game against Pittsburgh — or used in the regularly scheduled game with the Pirates in Bradenton.
The Twins might schedule another B game if they need more innings for pitchers.
Logan Darnell picked off Jake Elmore at first base in the third inning Friday, the second time in as many Grapefruit League games the Twins have picked off a runner. Aaron Thompson ended Thursday’s game by picking off Red Sox pinch runner Matty Johnson.
Is this a sign that the players are responding to the edict from Molitor? No.
“Darnell and Thompson just have good pickoff moves,” Molitor said.
The Twins head down the street to play the Red Sox at JetBlue Park. The Twins’ Phil Hughes and Boston’s Clay Buchholz are the scheduled starters.
La VELLE E. NEAL III