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Updated: March 10th, 2011 4:55pm
Live from Florida, Day 22: Blue Jays blast 2 homers off Nick Blackburn

Live from Florida, Day 22: Blue Jays blast 2 homers off Nick Blackburn

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

Thursday's result

Blue Jays 7, Twins 4

The Blue Jays teed off on Nick Blackburn.

Rajai Davis drove the right-hander's second pitch into the top of a palm tree beyond the left-field fence, Brett Lawrie sliced another homer to right-center and Darrin Mastroianni clubbed an RBI double to deep center.

"I threw a couple good changeups and curveballs later," said Blackburn, who start was delayed more than an hour because of rain.

"But early on, I'm trying to work on getting my sinker over for strikes and they're just hacking at them wherever they're at. It obviously wasn't fun."

After four scoreless, encouraging innings to open the spring, Blackburn's final line looked a bit like one of his rocky outings in 2010: five runs (three earned) on seven hits, two home runs and one strikeout in three innings.

"They actually hit a couple of balls -- looked like they golfed them," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "But it wasn't one of (Blackburn's) better days. The ball was up. Just got it up and they whacked him, and they've been a good-hitting fastball team, and it looks like it goes all the way through the system."

A sinkerballer whose strength is inducing ground balls, Blackburn started 26 big-league games last season and allowed two or more home runs in seven (26.9%). His rate of 1.4 home runs per nine innings was ninth-highest in the majors.

Both of Thursday's homers came on 0-1 fastballs. Blackburn said the pitch to Lawrie was so low and inside it probably wasn't even a strike.

"If they see a fastball out of your hand, they're going to be swinging at it," Blackburn said. "That's part of their philosophy, and if I can locate my other pitches, then that might have been the difference for me."

• 3B Danny Valencia's failure to charge a hopper -- the second such error he's committed this week -- and CF Joe Benson's throw to the wrong base set up Davis' two-out, two-run single in the second inning.

• In the bottom of the first, Luke Hughes ripped a two-run double that short-hopped the fence in left-center field. Hughes got the start at first base, another step in his push to make the team as a utility infielder.

• C Drew Butera picked a breaking ball out of the dirt and caught DH Eric Thames stealing in the fifth inning. The Blue Jays' final run scored on a throwing error by C Chris Herrmann.

Who's hot

• Hughes finished 1-for-3 with two strikeouts, but his two-run double gave him RBIs in three consecutive games and 10 for the spring. He's hit safely in eight of 10 games, compiling a .370 batting average (10-for-27) with a .778 slugging percentage and three home runs.

• DH Jason Kubel was 1-for-3 with an RBI triple and two runs scored. He's hitting .428 (9-for-21) and slugging .810 with 17 total bases and six RBIs.

Who's not

• RHP Eric Hacker allowed three runs (two earned) on three hits with a walk and a strikeout before escaping with two on in the ninth. In his past three outings, the former Yankees and Giants reliever has surrendered nine runs in three innings (27.00 ERA).

Numbers game

14: Pitches RHP Joe Nathan threw in his fourth straight scoreless spring appearance, walking one and striking out one in the fifth inning. He topped out at 93 mph on the Hammond Stadium radar gun but struggled to spot off-speed pitches. "I think I'm now at a stage where I'm trying to get my slider a little sharper and a little better and get that where it needs to be," said Nathan, who is coming off Tommy John elbow surgery. "(Thursday) was maybe a case of trying a little bit too hard to lock that pitch in, and just got to let it happen."

3: Twins regulars -- DH Jim Thome, LF Delmon Young and 2B Tsuyoshi Nishioka -- scratched from the lineup after the rain delay.

Health watch

• Nishioka has a minor quadriceps issue in addition to an ankle that's been bothering him. "He says he's fine, no problems," Gardenhire said. "But he just came in and said this is probably a good idea to get him out of the ballgame."

• 1B Justin Morneau (concussion) is scheduled to make his official spring-training debut on Friday, three days after appearing in a "B" game. "Probably, he'll be a little nervous," Gardenhire said. "It's just another ballgame for most of us, but for Justin, it's a little different. He's had to sit out for quite awhile. It's always excited for a player to get back into a live game for the first time."

• 2B Ray Chang injured his left wrist or hand while trying to catch a throw as Davis slid into second base in the second inning. Chang briefly received medical attention but stayed in the game.

Overheard

"No DUIs, folks! No DUIs! Ice cold beer here!"
-- Vendor at Hammond Stadium

On deck

Brian Duensing will get the ball against fellow left-hander Jon Lester when the Twins host the Toronto Blue Jays at 12:05 p.m. Friday at Hammond Stadium. Minor leaguers not invited to big-league camp also are reporting to the facility and have their first full workout on Saturday.

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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