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Notes from the Trop: Did Zach Duke touch the bag?

ST. PETERSBURG–Two days after going 16 innings with Cleveland in Puerto Rico, the Twins played another wild one Friday, losing to the Rays 8-7 in 10 innings.

It was a tough loss for the Twins, who tied the score at six with a dramatic two-out, two-strike grand slam from Eddie Rosario, then took the lead after Max Kepler went deep in the ninth.

One out from victory, Fernando Rodney hit Carlos Gomez with a pitch, allowed him to steal second, then gave up a game-tying single that took a Metrodome-like bounce off the mound, sailing off the tip of a leaping Eduardo Escobar’s glove and into center field.

“We have a short shortstop,” joked Paul Molitor after the game.

In the tenth, the Twins suffered another gut punch. With runners on first and second and two outs, Zach Duke got Denard Span to ground to first. Duke, though, failed to touch first base after receiving a relay throw from Mauer. By the time he gathered himself, Johnny Field came around from second to score the winning run.

It was a close play at first, with Duke’s foot appearing to land just at the edge of the base. The Twins challenged, but the call was upheld and Minnesota fell to 8-6 on the year.

So, did Duke touch the bag? He believes he did.

“I felt like I got a piece of the base,” he said after the game. “Apparently they didn’t see it on replay.”

In my view, it was a 50-50 play that could have gone either way. Had the first base umpire called him out, the ruling likely would have been upheld on replay. Nevertheless, that’s a basic pitchers fielding practice (PFP) play practiced endlessly in spring training, and it’s one that should be converted

Tough one for Minnesota.

Logan Morrison returns to the Trop, and promptly goes deep

 Logan Morrison’s been in a sizeable slump to begin the year, going 3-for-44 through Wednesday. (Note: The Twins have sent Morrison’s final at bat against Cleveland, in which he reached on an error, to the league for review, hoping to get it changed to a base hit.) On Friday, in his first at-bat back at the Trop—where he hit 38 home runs last year—he homered off Chris Archer, his first of the year.

Morrison’s slump should be taken in context. The Twins have had four postponements, played most of their games in freezing weather, and traveled outside the continental U.S., all in the past three weeks.

“You try not to think about it, but it’s been a crazy start to the season,” Morrison said Friday. “All the stuff we’ve been going through, already it feels like we’ve been playing for three and a half months. The Puerto Rico trip was a lot of fun, but very tiring.”

Morrison said he’s been trying to stay in a routine as much as possible through work in the cage.

“I’ve swung until my fingers and hands are going to fall off,” he said.

In some ways, this feels like the first “normal” series of the year for Minnesota. And for Morrison, who spent the past two seasons in Tampa, it’s a return to the place where he put up a career year, although he noted that he did most of his damage on the road last year.

Morrison went to high school in Louisiana and spent his career playing in warm weather cities and domes (Miami, Seattle, Tampa Bay), so the extreme cold of Minnesota probably was a bit of a shock to his system.

“Being comfortable playing baseball is a lot better than not being comfortable playing baseball,” he said about the conditions early in the season. “I’m starting to make better contact, so that’s good. Hit ‘em where they aren’t and we’ll be all right. Hit it over the fence would help too.”

On Friday, he did.

Lynn’s start

Morrison wasn’t the only one talking about the challenging start to the season. Lance Lynn, who made just his third start of the year on Friday, also discussed the difficulty of trying to get in a routine in a season that hasn’t allowed for one.

“I’m looking forward to playing baseball games, getting in a rhythm. I don’t know if I’ve ever been making my third start on April 20,” he said.

Lynn made his first start in eleven days Friday, giving up five earned runs in six plus innings, striking out seven, and walking five. After signing in spring training, Lynn’s had minimum game exposure, which might help explain the high walk rate. He’s walked 15 in 15 innings.

“I got to cut back on the walks, the walks are way too many,” he said.

He told reporters Friday was the best his stuff has been all year. After seven more strikeouts, Lynn now has 19 punch-outs in 15 innings. As the season gets going and he takes the ball every fifth day, improving his control will likely be the key to Lynn again posting a sub-4 ERA, which he’s done in each of his first six big league seasons.



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