FORT MYERS, Fla. — Nick Tepesch took the first step toward what he hopes is a job on the Twins’ pitching staff on Friday, but he knows his one scoreless inning is only a footnote in building his case. Still, pitching well beats the alternative.
“Every one of them matters. All of them count,” said the 28-year-old righthander, who pitched the eighth inning of a game started by his fellow Missouri Tiger, Kyle Gibson. “I went out there, stayed in the strike zone, attacked the hitters. And now I try to take that into the next one, and the next one. Build on each outing.”
Tepesch faced four hitters against the Rays, and while he didn’t strike anybody out, he got three ground balls (one of which scooted past rookie shortstop Engelb Vielma for a single) and a harmless fly ball.
“I felt really good. I’ve thrown a number of bullpens and a couple of live [batting practices], so it was nice to finally pitch in an actual game,” he said. “I felt like I commanded my fastball pretty well. I threw a couple of cutters, only one curveball. But I was commanding the zone.”
Tepesch knows he’s only one of 31 pitchers vying for roster spots in camp, and one of eight to pitch in the Grapefruit League opener. Now a whole new roster of Twins hopefuls take their turn today, as the Twins meet Boston at JetBlue Park. Ryan Vogelsong will make his Twins debut, while Tyler Duffey, Adalberto Mejia, Ryan Pressly and Ryan O’Rourke also will be on the mound. Phil Hughes, who hasn’t faced a hitter since suffering a broken kneecap last June, will start for the Twins and throw 30 pitches.
The Twins’ lineup is completely different today, too; most of last night’s starters stayed behind at Twins camp. The Red Sox, as home team, are using many of their star players. One interesting note: catcher Chris Gimenez will play first base once Byung Ho Park is out of the game, as manager Paul Molitor looks for versatility from his bench players.
Ben Paulsen, 0-for-2 last night as backup first baseman, serves as DH today. I wrote about him and his chances in Saturday’s paper.
Here are the lineups for today’s noon (CST) game, which will be televised on MLB Network and broadcast on Go96.3.