FORT MYERS, Fla. – Brian Dozier doubled and walked, and Erick Aybar singled twice, and the Twins won their second consecutive Grapefruit League game Monday, 5-4 over the St. Louis Cardinals at Hammond Stadium.
But the number that might have meant the most to the Twins was 91. That’s the velocity reading in miles per hour that righthander Phil Hughes routinely registered with his fastball, a sign that the veteran starter is healthy again after two seasons ruined by thoracic outlet syndrome.
“To go and have a little life behind my fastball was pretty encouraging,” said Hughes, who gave up a single to Cardinals rookie outfielder Tyler O’Neill but no other baserunners in his two-inning start. “If it’s low 90s, that’s what I need to be, and not 88, 89 [mph] like you’ve seen in the past.”
Hughes, who has undergone surgery on his right shoulder in each of the past two summers, mixed in more sliders than he has used in the past, something he intends to do more frequently. “I’ve messed around with it a little bit. It’s always been a pitch I’ve had, but I feel pretty confident with it now,” he said.
Tyler Duffey, a potential competitor to Hughes for a spot in the rotation, also worked a near-perfect two innings.
The 34-year-old Aybar, a 2014 All-Star who signed a minor league contract last week, drove in a run with his fifth-inning single, the second of his Twins debut. “He had a nice day. He got one through the infield [in the third inning], then switched around to the right side and had a nice hit” in the fifth, manager Paul Molitor said. “That’s kind of what he does — he grinds them out.”
The Twins rallied from a 4-3 deficit in the seventh inning when minor leaguer Sean Miller led off with a double, and scored on Ryan LaMarre’s sharp single to right field. LaMarre eventually score the go-ahead run on a bases-loaded single by Willians Astudillo.