Baker makes debut as Twins beat Rays

Published 8:56 am Wednesday, March 7, 2012

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Scott Baker pitched two hitless innings in his spring debut as the Minnesota Twins beat the Tamps Bay Rays 3-2 on Tuesday.

The outing was a good sign for Baker, who went 8-6 with a 3.14 ERA for the Twins before an elbow injury ended his 2011 season.

“I’m just doing my business,” Baker said. “I obviously make sure that I do all the preventative stuff. So maybe I do a little more than I have in the past, but that’s not a bad thing. That’s actually a good thing. So you just do the best you can. There’s peace in the fact I’m doing everything I can to stay healthy.”

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Minnesota appreciates that. The Twins suffered through an injury-plagued, 99-loss season and manager Ron Gardenhire said he’s trying to see a lot of people.

“The biggest thing we didn’t do very well last year was catch the ball, and we made a couple of errors today, funny plays out there. The wind was blowing all over the place, but as we go along this spring I hope we get better and better because if we pitch and we catch the ball really well, we’ll have a chance.”

Ryan Doumit got a look Tuesday, making his first start at catcher, giving Joe Mauer the day off. The former Pittsburgh Pirate has already seen time in the outfield and as a designated hitter.

“He’s going to move around, but he’s going to get a lot of at-bats,” Gardenhire said of Doumit.

Alexi Casilla had two hits for Minnesota, bringing his spring batting average up to .556.

“He’s a really good player,” Gardenhire said. “As I named him my second baseman this winter and even last year, I really like this young man. He’s very talented. … As long as he stays under control, he’s going to do a very good job with us.”

The Rays are winless in their four exhibition games, three of the losses are against Minnesota.

Last year Tampa Bay rode a wave of momentum in September to win the AL wild card on the last day of the regular season and manager Joe Maddon has made it clear he is looking more at abstract factors rather than results this spring when considering who makes the fifth spot in the Rays’ starting rotation

Jeff Niemann is one of the contenders. He took the loss Tuesday.

Things got off to a rocky start for the right-hander when he issued back-to-back singles to Ben Revere and Jamey Carroll in the first inning. They advanced to second and third on Niemann’s errant pickoff throw to second, and Revere scored from third on Ryan Doumit’s groundout. Niemann recovered with a 1-2-3 second inning.

“You never want it to be sloppy, but that’s why we play these games,” Niemann said. “That’s why you go out there and you try to iron out all the things, all the kinks. And it was good. We made adjustments and got out of it and limited the damage.”

Said Maddon: “We did explain to them it’s not necessarily a competition based on performance of these games, but if you’re a competitor you’re going to take it that way.”

Carlos Pena made his first start of the spring since his return to the Rays. The first basemen was optimistic despite going hitless in his two at-bats, flying out both times.

“It felt really good to be out there,” Pena said. “I felt pretty calm and comfortable at the plate today. I tracked the ball really well. I felt like I did exactly what I wanted to accomplish today when I was at the plate.”