PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. – Fernando Romero faced nine hitters Sunday and retired them all, but by now, that's no surprise. The righthander is one inning from a piecemeal no-hitter.

Romero struck out two, walked none, and increased his spring total to eight innings without allowing a hit, helping the Twins roll to their fourth consecutive Grapefruit League victory, 6-5 over the Rays at Charlotte Sports Park. The 23-year-old Dominican, widely considered the Twins' top righthanded pitching prospect, has struck out eight batters and walked only one in four spring appearances.

"It's been good so far. We've been working on the mechanics and delivery, and how to finish stronger," said Romero, who has mostly faced minor leaguers in the late innings of exhibition games. "I've been feeling really excited."

So has Twins manager Paul Molitor, and it's not just because Romero throws his fastball 96-98 miles per hour. It's the other pitches that have Molitor especially enthused.

"The fact that his offspeed pitches are coming out [so well] is really encouraging. He doesn't just rely on overpowering people," Molitor said. "He's got good tilt on both the changeup and the slider. You can see those righthanders are having trouble getting the ball up on the inside of the plate."

With no experience above Class AA, Romero is likely to open the season at Class AAA Rochester, but he is making an impression on his future big-league manager.

"It was a really good day for him. He's pitching very confidently," Molitor said. "I would think he's feeling really good about how he's throwing the ball. There's not too much hard contact, he's throwing it over, getting a lot of swings and misses. Not much not to like."

Same goes for the Twins offense. One day after rain obliterated the Twins' nine-run first inning against Boston, Minnesota struck for five runs in the second inning Sunday behind a bases-loaded walk to Joe Mauer, followed by two-run singles from Erick Aybar and Miguel Sano.