FORT MYERS, Fla. – Tim Stauffer became the first pitcher to drop out of the Twins' fifth-starter sweepstakes on Wednesday.
Stauffer, promised a shot at the rotation when he signed a $2.2 million free-agent contract in December, agreed to focus instead on the bullpen, where he has pitched the past two seasons, during a morning meeting with manager Paul Molitor and pitching coach Neil Allen.
"He was fine with that," Molitor said of the 32-year-old former Padre. In three appearances totaling six innings, Stauffer has allowed 16 hits, 12 runs, two homers and four walks, while striking out only two. His velocity has been well below his normal 91-mph level, though the Twins believe he will improve with more work.
"We'll change our schedule and get him out there more often," Molitor said. The question is, in what role? Molitor said the former first-round pick "could be a long guy, but he's got experience. He might be a good matchup guy, right-on-right, too. … I couldn't tell you what his role is going to be right now."
Molitor has been emphasizing how small errors can have large consequences. His team learned that lesson the hard way Wednesday.
Boston rallied for two runs in the eighth inning at JetBlue Park to beat the Twins 3-2, and the runs would not have scored if the Twins had executed a rundown on a pickoff play.
"You could say that was a pretty big out," Molitor shrugged.
Trying to protect a 2-1 lead, lefthander Aaron Thompson got ahead of leadoff hitter Henry Ramos 0-2 but ended up walking him. The Red Sox sacrificed him to second, but Jackie Bradley Jr. struck out. With two outs, Ramos strayed off second base and Thompson seemed to have him picked off. But Ramos eluded Thompson, who ended up tossing the ball to third baseman Trevor Plouffe. He ran the runner back toward second, but his flip to James Beresford was too late.
The mistake was costly when infielder Jeff Bianchi singled to center, scoring Ramos to tie the score. Bianchi moved to second on Aaron Hicks' throw to the plate, then scored the go-ahead run when a pop fly fell in shallow right field.
"We pick a guy off, but it was not run very smoothly," Molitor said. "I talked to Aaron a little bit about it — he had the guy stuck in the middle with nowhere to go, and he allowed himself to get a little out of control as [Ramos] juked him a little bit. And then Trevor held on to the ball maybe a hair too long."
Santana feels better
Ervin Santana hung a slider in the second inning against Baltimore that was launched over the Hammond Stadium left field wall by Jonathan Schoop. But Santana finished his four-inning outing by retiring the final six batters, and he felt he made progress.
After lamenting the effectiveness of his changeup in previous outings, he threw his changeup more than his slider Wednesday and came away satisfied with its progress.
"To me this outing was better than the last one," said Santana, who left after two innings last Friday in Bradenton. "Less pitches and more innings — that's what you are looking for."
Righthander Ricky Nolasco is scheduled to start Thursday as the Twins head to Port Charlotte to play the Rays in a game that will be televised by Fox Sports North. Lefthander Nathan Karns is scheduled to start for Tampa Bay.
La Velle E. Neal III and Phil Miller