FORT MYERS, Fla. – Phil Hughes, after a season cut short by shoulder surgery, had not faced a batter in 8½ months. So how did it feel to return to the mound Saturday?
"Like it had been 8½ months," he said. "… I was a little shaky."
Fighting to find his control of the strike zone, Hughes gave up two runs in his two-inning Grapefruit League debut, but he retired four of the final five batters he faced. The Twins bullpen, however, couldn't match his strong finish, and Boston rallied from a five-run deficit to pull out an 8-7 Grapefruit League victory at JetBlue Park.
Byung Ho Park drove in a pair of runs with a long home run to center field and a two-strike sacrifice fly, and outfielder Drew Stubbs also homered. But with the score tied in the eighth inning, Boston outfielder Brian Boguesevic bounced a single through the infield, scoring Deven Marrero from third base and completing Boston's comeback from the Twins' early 7-2 lead. Marrero led off the inning with a double to deep right-center off Twins reliever J.T. Chargois and moved to third on a ground out, setting up Bogusevic's game-winner, which dropped the Twins to 0-2 this spring.
But the best news for the Twins was Hughes' spring debut, after his 2016 season was ruined by shoulder pain, a broken knee, and ultimately surgery to treat thoracic outlet syndrome by removing a rib. Hughes had difficulty finding the strike zone early on, and paid for it with three hits to Boston's first four batters. Dustin Pedroia led off with a double high off the left-field wall, Mookie Betts singled, and Hanley Ramirez doubled as well.
"I couldn't seem to throw a first-pitch strike until the second inning," Hughes said. "It was a little bit of a struggle, command-wise, but I can't say I'm necessarily surprised to feel a little extra adrenalin when you're out there against actual hitters. It's a little different."