Burnett and Worley get loose, Twins beat Pirates 7-4

Published 8:30 am Thursday, March 28, 2013

BRADENTON, Fla. — After a few bumpy spring training outings, pitcher Vance Worley showed why he deserves to be the Minnesota Twins’ opening day starter.

Worley settled down after the first inning and rolled through five in a 7-4 victory against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday.

Over his first five Grapefruit League outings, Worley had a 6.35 ERA, allowing 27 hits in 17 innings. On Wednesday, Worley held the Pirates to two runs on seven hits and struck out five.

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Manager Ron Gardenhire announced after his outing, Worley will take the mound Monday against the Detroit Tigers in the season opener.

“I’m excited,” Worley said. “Especially after having the spring that I’ve had. I finally got the kinks out and threw the ball well today.”

The Pirates loaded the bases in the first inning with one out but scored just one run. In the third, Worley served up a solo homer to Pedro Alvarez.

“I just trusted my stuff,” Worley said. “I’ve been working on getting better extension on my throws and not trying to do too much.”

The Twins traded for Worley in November after he went 6-9 with a 4.20 ERA last season for the Philadelphia Phillies.

“Today was his best stuff,” Gardenhire said. “He had a nice breaking ball. He was sharp. The best we’ve seen. We want him to be that 200-inning guy and give us a chance. That’s what we got him for.”

Danny Ortiz hit a two-run homer and Doug Bernier had three hits for the Twins. Ortiz’s shot to right field off reliever Chris Leroux sparked a four-run eighth inning. Bernier opened the scoring in the second inning with an RBI double off right-hander A.J. Burnett.

Burnett, who will be the Pirates’ opening day starter, pitched three innings. He allowed two runs on four hits and struck out two.

It was the first time since March 9 that Burnett pitched in an “A” game. He opted to do much of his preparation this spring in minor league games. That allowed the Pirates to have younger pitchers competing for jobs pitch in the Grapefruit League games.

“It was good to get up there in front of my guys and in front of the fans and face big league hitters,” Burnett said. “But it’s spring. For a guy at my age and what I’ve done, I’ve just got to get ready. Now we play games that mean something. It’s time to go.”

It was the first time catcher Russell Martin, who signed with the Pirates in November, caught Burnett in a game.

“We got to work on some things, and throw some pitches in some counts that might happen during the season,” Burnett said. “He’s caught one of my bullpens, so us going out there and doing some different things, it was good.”

Alvarez had four hits and three RBIs. Starling Marte went 3 for 5 and has reached base safely in eight straight games.

NOTES: The Pirates chose LHP Jeff Locke to fill their final open spot in their starting rotation. Locke beat out RHP Kyle McPherson, who was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis, and RHP Jeanmar Gomez, who will begin the season in the Pirates’ bullpen. … OF Alex Presley, the Pirates’ opening day left fielder last season, and INF Jordy Mercer were optioned to Indianapolis. LHP Mike Zagurski, RHP Ryan Reid, RHP Vin Mazzaro, C Carlos Paulino, C Lucas May and OF Felix Pie were reassigned to minor league camp. … The Pirates purchased the contracts of INF Brandon Inge (shoulder) and RHP Jeff Karstens (shoulder). They likely will begin the season on the disabled list. To make room on the 40-man roster, Pittsburgh designated for assignment 1B Hunter Strickland and RHP Clint Robinson. … The Twins optioned RHP Alex Burnett to Triple-A Rochester. “He had a good first half for us last year, but struggled in the second half and it kind of carried over into spring training,” Gardenhire said. “We love his arm and all those things. But we picked the best people who can help us right now, and he wasn’t one of those guys.”