When a major league player heads back to the minor leagues to get some work, it’s usually just that — to build up stamina for the regular season and hit the showers. And sometimes the pitching lines can be ugly.
Twins lefthander Tommy Milone wouldn’t stand for that Monday when he started getting knocked around. He made adjustments and retired the final 11 batters he faced during a intrasquad game on a back field at CenturyLink Sports Complex.
Milone gave up two runs over four innings, with the runs coming on back-to-back hits in the first inning. Levi Michael singled and Carlos Paulino homered on first pitches, telling Milone that he needed to mix his pitches more. And he did, showing excellent command of his breaking ball.
Milone threw 53 pitches, then said he added another 10-12 in the bullpen.
“I just wanted to pound the strike zone,” Milone said. “I realized after the second hitter [they were] first-pitch swinging. I started throwing some changeups and curveballs for the first pitch, then pounded them inside. Just a little adjustment, they came out swinging.”
Milone is very pleased with his curveball.
“It’s actually really good right now,” he said. “I’m very comfortable with it. It’s one of those pitches where I can use it in a jam.”
May throws, too
Milone started opposite Trevor May, who gave up one earned run over three innings. The righthander threw 40 pitches before heading for the bullpen for another 10-12 pitches.
May is a little behind after missing a few days because of the flu early in camp. But he showed good command Monday, hitting both corners with his curveball.
“That’s what I wanted to do,” May said. “Coming over here, you want throw the ball over the plate.”
May is in the race for the No. 5 starter’s role, a role that Milone appears to be first in line for. But things can change quickly in a spring training camp.
Twins manager Paul Molitor and General Manager Terry Ryan were on hand to watch the game. Molitor was in street clothes, as Monday is the only scheduled off day of the spring training calendar and the major leaguers were given the day off.
Moves made official
The Twins announced lefthander Jason Wheeler and righthander Lester Oliveros were sent to Class AAA Rochester and third baseman Miguel Sano was sent to Class AA New Britain. Those moves brought the Twins’ camp roster down to 45.
Sano, of course, is noteworthy because of his status as one of the top prospects in baseball. Sano was 2-for-10 in official Grapefruit Leagues games but those two hits were home runs — including one on Saturday in Jupiter, Fla., against Miami that hit a building just beyond the left field fence.
Instead of keeping Sano, Byron Buxton and Jose Berrios — three of their top prospects — around to continue to see what a major league camp is all about, the Twins opted to send them down so they can get plenty and at-bats and innings so they can be ready for the minor league season. For Sano and Buxton, the work could be beneficial as Sano missed all of 2014 and Buxton most of 2104 because of injuries.
Wheeler, projected as a starter at Rochester, pitched just 1⅓ innings in camp and needs to be stretched out. Oliveros has a slight shoulder problem as camp opened and didn’t make his spring debut until Friday. He’s rusty and needs work but could be an option early in the season if the Twins need help because he can hit 97 on the radar gun.
Righthander Phil Hughes is on the mound as the Twins head to Sarasota to face the Orioles on Tuesday.
La VELLE E. NEAL III