Live from Florida, Day 31: Mauer, Morneau clear more hurdles
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A rundown of the news, notes and quotes from Saturday at Minnesota Twins spring training:
Twins 9, Rays 2
Clearing yet another hurdle, Joe Mauer -- nearly recovered from offseason knee surgery -- strapped on the catcher's gear in an "A" game for the first time this spring.
Mauer caught Nick Blackburn for five innings and went 1-for-2 at the plate with an RBI single and a walk. Each of his three plate appearances came against Rays right-hander Wade Davis.
"It felt good today," Mauer said. "I feel good now. I'll probably be a little sore tomorrow, but everything's going as planned."
Perhaps the most intriguing occurrence for Mauer took place in the top of the first inning, when the Rays' second batter, shortstop Reid Brignac, dropped a bunt down the third base line. Mauer sprung out of his crouch to field the bunt, but his throw to first was a fraction late.
"Yeah, it was interesting," Mauer said. "That's baseball. It usually finds you when you first get out there. It was good. It was a play that I'm going to have to make sooner or later, and it was good to get it out of the way."
The next challenge in the two weeks leading up to the regular season is for Mauer to be able to string together multiple days in a row as catcher.
• Blackburn threw five innings on Saturday, allowing seven hits and two earned runs. He struck out two and walked none, and the only damage came on a two-run homer by Casey Kotchman with two outs in the fourth inning.
• Delmon Young hit his first home run of the spring -- a monster three-run bomb to left field in the fourth inning off right-hander Cory Wade.
• Kevin Slowey pitched three scoreless innings, allowing a hit and a walk while striking out one.
Morneau plays in back-to-back games
Just hours after playing in his first night game since last July, first baseman Justin Morneau went 2-for-4 with two singles as a designated hitter in a Triple-A game on a Lee County Sports Complex side field Saturday.
This was the first time Morneau has played in back-to-back games since suffering a concussion last summer.
Manager Ron Gardenhire watched Morneau from a tower behind home plate, rather than watching the "A" game inside Hammond Stadium.
"Swung the bat good," Gardenhire said. "Got him some swings in. He hit a hard groundball between first and second, and then a bullet up the middle ... Felt great."
Gardenhire said Morneau will take batting practice on Sunday before rejoining the lineup, in all likelihood, on Monday.
"He'll get in a lot of ball games over the next five or six days."
40: Players remaining in camp (10 non-roster) after Saturday's cuts -- 20 pitchers, five catchers, eight infielders and seven outfielders.
3: The number of long-ranging plays made by second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka on Saturday -- the most impressive one being a backhanded stab up the middle and quick throw to gun down Sam Fuld at first base.
"I didn't think there was any chance he was going to get to (it)," Blackburn said. "I was very surprised when he got to it and threw the guy out. It's pretty obvious he has great range.
"That's great for a groundball pitcher."
• OF Michael Cuddyer remains sidelined with some lingering issues around the area where a wart was removed from his left foot.
"He's doing better," Gardenhire said. "They're working on different things for his foot and all that stuff, trying to get the soreness out from around it, and trying to figure something inside of his shoe so it will make it easier for him to be able to move around. He was pretty positive today that he had made some strides."
No pun intended.
"We're still day-to-day."
• RHP Anthony Slama (stress reaction, elbow) has yet to throw from a mound since being sidelined three weeks ago, but he is throwing long toss from 120 feet.
"Everything felt good, and I don't know my schedule. Are we good?"
-- Mauer, with a smile, joking with reporters prior to his post-game press conference. Mauer has spoken to the media after clearing each new hurdle over the past week, and many of the questions can be redundant. Shocking.
The Twins travel to Dunedin on Sunday for a match-up with the Blue Jays. RHP Scott Baker is scheduled to pitch against RHP Jesse Litsch. RHP Matt Capps, RHP Jeff Manship and LHP Dusty Hughes are also expected to pitch.