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Updated: March 9th, 2011 3:34pm
Live from Florida, Day 21: Luke Hughes homers again, continues push

Live from Florida, Day 21: Luke Hughes homers again, continues push

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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SARASOTA, Fla. -- A rundown of the news, notes and quotes from Wednesday at Minnesota Twins spring training:

Wednesday's result

Orioles 11, Twins 2

Luke Hughes isn't going down (to the minors) without a fight.

The Australian infielder's towering home run over the bleachers in left field at Ed Smith Stadium was one of few highlights for the Twins in a game they trailed 6-1 after only two innings.

"He's swinging good, playing good," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Good for him. Keep doing it. That's what you come to spring training to do -- open eyes and make a ballclub, and he's swinging."

Hughes, 26, has put up solid numbers with the Twins three consecutive springs. But his performance in the early going this year -- 9-for-24 (.375) with a .791 slugging percentage, three home runs and eight RBIs in nine games -- suggests this might be his best yet.

It comes on the heels of a 2010 season in which Hughes homered in his first big-league at-bat on April 28, then battled injuries that limited him to 24 games between the Twins and Class-AAA Rochester.

"His problem has been just staying on the field and staying out there more than anything else," Gardenhire said. "But he's better. He's definitely a lot better. He's more sure of himself, he's confident and you can see he can drive a baseball. He's able to move around a lot better in the infield, so he's doing fine."

An amateur free agent signing in 2002, Hughes has been in the Twins organization for eight seasons, including parts of the past three in Rochester. And that's where he likely is headed again at the end of the month, unless the organization decides Hughes' bat is too valuable to trade for the versatility of Matt Tolbert or perhaps Trevor Plouffe.

One factor working against Hughes in the utility-man conversation is his inexperience at shortstop. But Gardenhire said he's "not afraid to put him in there. I'm not afraid to put him at first, outfield, anywhere. This is the time to do it, if you're going to do it."

• LHP Francisco Liriano lasted only 1 2/3 innings, allowing six runs (five earned) on six hits and walking three in his first official spring start.

• The damage continued against the Twins bullpen, which allowed three homers: a solo shot by Vladimir Guerrero off RHP Alex Burnett in the fifth inning, a two-run blast by Adam Jones off RHP Jim Hoey in the sixth and a massive bomb by Ryan Adams off LHP Chuck James in the eighth.

• Hoey, who was acquired from Baltimore in an offseason trade, gave up three runs on four hits, walked one and recorded only to outs. "It was just one of those days," Gardenhire said. "They were free-swinging, they got the lead and (Hoey) was throwing the ball down -- they were just whacking."

• OF Brian Dinkelman drove in the Twins' only other run on a grounder Orioles 3B Nick Green booted in the seventh inning.

Numbers game

3: Runs the Twins trailed by in the ninth inning of Tuesday's loss to Pittsburgh when fans booed third-base coach Steve Liddle for holding big catcher Justin Huber. "If you have clue, you're down three runs," Gardenhire said, "and you've got Huber running, who's playing Beethoven when he's running, and we can't get him thrown out there. If a base runner makes a mistake on the bases and you as a third-base coach try to still force the issue, that's when you get screwed."

0-4: Twins' record this spring when the opponent scores first, as the Orioles did on Wednesday.

6-1: Twins' record when they score first.

2: Consecutive days the National Anthem before a Twins game was sung mostly by the fans because of microphone issues.

Health watch

• 1B Justin Morneau (concussion) felt good the morning after starting a "B" game, but the team has decided to push back his official spring debut to Friday.

• LF Delmon Young (toe) could make his official spring debut on Thursday. "Hopefully, he can go out and play the outfield, because I've got enough DHs," Gardenhire said. "I've got a lot of DH candidates and I'd like for him to get in the outfield pretty quick. ... He ran around pretty good."

• RHP Anthony Slama (elbow) had an MRI "and everything looked great," Gardenhire said. "He has a little inflammation, so I'm hoping ... that we can get him back flipping it."

• OF Ben Revere was scratched from the lineup after cutting up his hands on a diving catch at the warning track in Tuesday's game.

• OF Michael Cuddyer (wart removal) is "doing better and better," Gardenhire said. "He's going nuts, but he's getting closer. The hole in his foot's almost closed."

• 1B/OF Chris Parmelee (shoulder) is having trouble throwing and swinging. He was shut down on Tuesday and was scheduled to be re-evaluated on Wednesday.

Overheard

"Scotty's my acting manager. When we send a split squad, Scotty manages, and when I get pitched out and it's not my fault, Scotty manages. And Scotty's still going to manage. He aspires to be a manager, and I want him in the dugout with me. Steve's been my bench coach. He's a very good third-base coach. Steve still does a lot of the other jobs as a bench coach in there with a computer, because he's so good at that. Scotty -- he wants to manage, and to be in the dugout is the right thing since he is the acting manager when I'm out. He's done that long enough, a long time. So, put Steve out there and he likes to coach third base. Change it up a bit."
-- Gardenhire, on the decision to flop the roles of Scott Ullger and Liddle after last season

On deck

Twins RHP Nick Blackburn is slated to start for the Twins against Toronto RHP Jesse Litsch on Wednesday at Hammond Stadium. First pitch is slated for 12:05 p.m.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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