FORT MYERS, Fla. — Jose Berrios hit leadoff hitter Dan Motl with a pitch. Then second baseman James Beresford misplayed a double-play ball. Two batters into Paul Molitor’s managerial career, he was learning how much patience he’ll need.
“An inauspicious beginning,” Molitor said with a smile. “We spent a lot of time on ground balls, and the first one didn’t work out too well.”
But Berrios escaped with only one run, the Twins didn’t allow a hit over the final eight innings, and Molitor gets to remember his first game fondly, a 3-1 win over the Gophers.
There were a few glitches, however. Confusion over the count — the scoreboard and the umpire didn’t agree a couple of times — caused Miguel Sano to take off for second base on a 2-2 count; he thought it was 3-2. But Sano stole the base, and bragged afterward about his underrated speed.
Molitor smirked at the thought, but said, “In [Class A] Fort Myers, he had double-digit stolen bases, though he wasn’t quite so big then. But he can get going a little bit.”
Later that inning, Molitor said, he and third-base coach Gene Glynn experienced some confusion over the signals, so they’ll be going over them again before tomorrow’s game.
The game featured only a handful of players who figure to come north next month, but it’s doubtful any Twins fans cared. They got to see the organization’s brightest prospects, and all contributed.
— Berrios, likely headed to Triple-A this year, righted himself after the first inning, and managed to retire the Gophers in the second on just 11 pitches, right at the limit the Twins had set for him.
— Byron Buxton led off the Twins’ first inning with a bloop to right-center that fell in for a hit — which he easily turned into a double. Then he doubled again in the second inning, driving in the go-ahead run.
— Kennys Vargas smacked a first-inning double to score Buxton.
— Miguel Sano laced a sharp single to center that nearly nailed pitcher Toby Anderson. Oh, and he stole a base.
— Jorge Polanco launched the first home run of the spring, a fly ball that landed deep in the right-field bar seats.
All were delighted with the game afterward, with Berrios pleased that he had good control of four pitches. The fastball velocity reached 95 mph — not bad, right? “Yeah, right now,” he said. “Maybe later, more.”
Sano and Buxton were mostly just thrilled to be on the field again, after injury-plagued 2014 seasons. Exclaimed the 240-pound Sano: “Little Miguel Sano is back!”
Wait, there’s a bigger one …?