BRADENTON, FLA. – Home run. Hit batter. Home run.
“It wasn’t the start anyone wanted to see,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said.
But Phil Hughes adjusted, got his pitches down and got on a roll.
The Twins lost 4-1 to Pittsburgh on Monday, but Hughes came away feeling better about himself after a rocky first inning. He gave up another run in the second inning, but he facedthe minimum 12 batters over the final four innings of his outing.
Hughes gave up a leadoff home run to Pittsburgh’s Adam Frazier on a cut fastball that was up in the strike zone, hit Josh Harrison with a pitch and then didn’t get a changeup in enough on Andrew McCutcheon.
After that early 3-0 deficit, though, Hughes stopped leaving pitches up. He used his changeup and curveball effectively as he threw his arsenal of pitches on both sides of the plate.
He also got ahead early in the count and found a good rhythm. The game was played in 2 hours, 10 minutes, largely because Hughes dictated the pace.
Hughes threw 79 pitches over six innings, then tossed another 11 in the bullpen afterward.
“If you would have told me after the first inning that I would have had to throw more pitches in the bullpen I wouldn’t have believed you,” Hughes said.
The Twins’ lone run came on Miguel Sano’s homer in the second inning. Sano entered the game batting .195 this spring.
First baseman Kennys Vargas (sore right foot) was able to take batting practice Monday, but there’s no timetable on his return.
Outfielder Robbie Grossman (sore groin muscle) participated in a full workout and will play two innings Tuesday in a minor league game.
Infielder Ehire Adrianza (right oblique) has not begun baseball activities yet.
Lefthander Ryan O’Rourke (flexor mass) is feeling better but hasn’t started a throwing program yet.
Catcher Jason Castro threw out Josh Harrison trying to steal second base in the third inning, on a throw that put the ball right on the first-base side of the bag, and knee-high — a perfect throw that led to an easy tag.
Molitor said the throw was timed at just above 1.9 seconds. “Which is really good,” he said. “On not the best pitch to throw, it was down a little bit. [But] on the money.”
• Twins relievers this week will be used in back-to-back games as they fine-tune for the regular season.
• Former Twins player and coach Al Newman was in attendance at Monday’s game.
• The Twins expect to announce this week that their home opener on Monday against Kansas City has been sold out.
Nick Tepesch will start on Tuesday as the Twins play host to Tampa Bay. The 28-year-old former Texas pitcher remains an option to be a long reliever.
La VELLE E. NEAL III