DUNEDIN, FLA. – Instead of having Adalberto Mejia pitch in a minor league game Monday, the Twins had him ride the bus to Dunedin and follow Tyler Duffey to the mound against Toronto.
That put two of the favorites to land the Twins’ No. 5 starter role in the same game, back-to-back.
“You can see what’s going on,” Twins pitching coach Neil Allen said. “They know what’s going on. The whole organization knows what’s going on.”
Duffey, the righthander with the big breaking ball, tossed five shutout innings in the 8-2 victory over Toronto. Mejia, the lefty who hit 95 miles per hour a handful of times, shut out the Blue Jays for three innings before giving up back-to-back home runs to Justin Smoak and Ryan McBroom in the ninth.
That raised Mejia’s spring ERA to 1.89. Did that hurt his chances?
“I like Mejia a lot,” Allen said. “He holds runners on, mixes up his looks, the ball moves in the strike zone There’s a lot there to like.”
But Duffey’s outing was his best of the spring, lowering his ERA to 3.86. Duffey was able to paint the corners with his fastball, but put him ahead in the count. He also threw some changeups, which he will need to do more of during the season. Duffey retired 10 of the last 11 Blue Jays he faced, an outing he can take off from.
“It felt like every inning I got a little bit better,” Duffey said. “I was hitting my spots pretty well, mixing everything in. Got some quick outs when I needed them. Just tried to stay out of the middle of the plate.”
Santana still set
Ervin Santana’s trip to San Diego for the World Baseball Classic won’t interfere with him starting for the Twins on Opening Day.
The veteran righthander returned to Twins camp Monday after starting for the Dominican Republic in its World Baseball Classic loss to the United States on Saturday. He will throw in the bullpen Tuesday, then start Friday against Baltimore. His final start of spring will be March 29 against Boston at JetBlue Park. Then he will have the standard four days off before Opening Day against Kansas City at Target Field.
Santana threw 68 pitches Saturday. He should be able to throw around 85 pitches Friday then around 100 on March 29, which will be enough for him to be full-go for Opening Day.
“He’s got two starts to accomplish what he wants to accomplish,” Allen said.
• Twins manager Paul Molitor said outfielder Robbie Grossman could miss five to seven days because of a strained right hamstring he suffered Sunday while diving for a ball against the Red Sox.
• First baseman Ben Paulsen had to be helped off the field in the ninth inning after being kicked in the right calf by Toronto’s Jonathan Davis as he tried to beat out a grounder. Molitor said Paulsen should be OK.
Kyle Gibson is aiming for his third start of giving up no more than one out when the Twins righthander faces the Phillies at Hammond Stadium on Tuesday. Righthander Jake Thompson will start for Philadelphia.
La Velle E. Neal III