PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — While much of the Twins’ attention was on their closer’s health back in Fort Myers, another veteran reliever made significant strides in the Twins’ loss to Tampa Bay.

    Tim Stauffer, who allowed 10 earned runs in his previous outings, finally rewarded the Twins’ confidence in him with a 1-2-3 eighth inning, quickly recording two ground outs and a strikeout. It was the former first-round pick’s initial appearance since agreeing Wednesday to end his pursuit of a starting job and focus on the bullpen.

    “He’s open-minded about the things we’re asking him to do,” manager Paul Molitor said. “We talked the other day about giving him a few appearances in shorter stints. An inning or two innings, and see how his arm responds to that.” The next one could come as soon as Saturday, he said.

    Stauffer was a starter for San Diego early in his career, but after arm injuries, he has been a reliever the past two seasons, and signed a $2.2 million free agent contract with Minnesota last December. 

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    A couple of other notes from the Rays’ camp:

    — Molitor said before the game that like Eddie Rosario, center fielder Aaron Hicks is not likely to make the major league roster if he doesn’t win the starting job. “He’s young enough where he probably still should be playing on a regular basis,” Molitor said, meaning a minor-league assignment. He said something similar about Rosario last week, which that either Jordan Schafer or Shane Robinson, if they don’t earn the starting job, will make the team as a backup outfielder.

    — Molitor complimented the work so far of Trevor May, probably a darkhorse candidate to earn the fifth-starter job after a subpar six-week debut last August and September. “May seems like he has a little more mound presence this year,” Molitor said. “That’s probably what that experience did for him.”

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