FORT MYERS, FLA. - They have had only three weeks to train for "playoff-type baseball," as Justin Morneau calls it. So just how ready can Morneau, Joe Mauer and Glen Perkins really be for the World Baseball Classic?
As the Red Sox can attest: very.
Mauer had a sharp single and a sharper line-out in three at-bats Saturday, Perkins easily struck out two of the three hitters he faced, and Morneau crushed a blast far beyond the right-field wall -- the trio's farewell acts as they leave to join Team USA or, in Morneau's case, Team Canada.
"Hopefully that means we're ready to go," Morneau said after the Twins' 2-1 loss to the Red Sox in Hammond Stadium. "It's a good way to head there, that's for sure."
The North American teams convene Monday in Arizona for their first workouts, play exhibition games Tuesday and Wednesday, then open first-round play next weekend at Chase Field in Phoenix.
The quadrennial tournament will leave a 13-player void in the Twins' clubhouse, but it also has meant a rush to get up to game speed, not follow the leisurely, relaxed pace of a normal spring camp. Morneau played in six of the last seven games, and said the sped-up schedule worked.
"I know I have to be ready in a couple of days to play playoff-type baseball," he said. "I think everyone knows what's at stake, and that's what makes it fun -- playing in that intensity and with the adrenaline kicking in."
There wasn't much adrenaline in Saturday's blustery weather, especially for the hitters. Morneau's home run off Alfredo Aceves was the lone Twins run, and six Minnesota relievers allowed only three hits in 7 1/3 innings. Kyle Gibson struck out three of the nine hitters he faced but allowed a walk and three hits, including home run to Juan Carlos Linares, as Boston ended the Twins' five-game winning streak.
Esmerling Vasquez surrendered the tie-breaking run in the fifth inning by walking the first two hitters he faced and giving up an RBI single to Ryan Sweeney.