PORT CHARLOTTE, FLA. — Randy Dobnak struck out six of the 10 batters he faced Saturday, and declared that his new identity.
"I'm actually a strikeout guy now," said the (former?) ground-ball specialist. "New year, new me."
New pitch, actually. Dobnak experimented with a new wrist action and release for his slider, a variation that's been in his pitch repertoire for all of nine days now. "Do you like it?" he asked rhetorically, clearly satisfied with his new weapon.
Dobnak pitched three scoreless innings, allowing only one hit, and the Twins shut down Tampa Bay 1-0 in eight innings at Charlotte Sports Park.
Willians Astudillo belted a 3-2 pitch from rookie righthander Shane Baz over the left-field fence to open the seventh inning, breaking up the scoreless tie and giving Twins pitchers all the cushion they needed. It was Astudillo's first home run of the spring.
The Twins struck out 13 batters, gave up only two singles and walked only one, and no Tampa Bay hitter reached second base all day. After Dobnak set the tone, reliever candidates Brandon Waddell, a lefthander, and righthander Derek Law both struck out all three hitters they faced.
"Dobnak did it today against a predominantly lefthanded group, and a quality group, on the Tampa Bay side, so it was a good outing for him in a lot of ways," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "Our guys threw strikes and did exactly what we would want them to do. It was a dominating effort, spring training or not."
The Twins didn't do much better against former teammate Rich Hill, who threw three scoreless innings, and five relievers. They struck out seven times and collected only four hits, Astudillo's the only one that mattered.