Updated: March 18th, 2012 1:16am
Notebook: Injuries behind him, Manship a candidate to land in bullpen

Notebook: Injuries behind him, Manship a candidate to land in bullpen

by Phil Mackey
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- By bringing 33 pitchers into camp this spring, the Minnesota Twins were looking for another Glen Perkins to emerge to help solidify the bullpen.

That's asking a lot.

But 27-year-old right-hander Jeff Manship might be someone to keep an eye on.

For Manship, 2011 was a throw-away season in many ways. He broke camp with the major league team heading into April but lasted only two weeks. Then after a month with Triple-A Rochester, Manship was sidelined due to posterior shoulder impingement.

Doctors told Manship the ball in his right shoulder socket joint was moving around a little too freely, and ended up digging a pit. To address the ailment, Manship had to change his shoulder weightlifting routine -- "Three-pound weights and basically strengthening up the area around it."

Manship came back from the shoulder rehab, threw in one game, then had his elbow flare up, which eventually led to offseason clean-up surgery to remove a bone chip. He also dealt with an oblique strain.

"It was everything," said Manship, who also underwent Tommy John surgery a few years back.

But as camp progresses, Manship is starting to separate himself in the bullpen battle. The only earned run he has allowed in 5 1/3 innings was a hanging changeup that David Ortiz smashed over the fence on March 5. Beyond that, Manship has eight strikeouts, no walks and only two other hits allowed.

And when he wasn't injured last year, his minor league numbers stacked up pretty well -- 26 strikeouts to just four walks in 31 innings (3.77 ERA), split between starter and reliever.

"This is the best my arm's felt in consecutive days in years," Manship said. "I'm feeling good. I think it's just a reflection a reflection too, just looking at how I've been pitching, I've been able to keep the ball down, which I couldn't keep down because of my shoulder in years past. So everything's coming together nicely."

Manship said his shoulder condition was "more aggravating than anything. I could still pitch on it, but it was changing my mechanics around. It was changing my arm slot."

Going forward, Manship will likely make a full transition from starter to reliever, where he has a better shot at cracking the 25-man roster. His average fastball rides in the low-90's, but having a repertoire of multiple pitches should help -- four-seam fastball, two-seam sinker, slider, curveball, changeup.

"I guess as a starter you kind of go in, and the first thing you have to establish your fastball," Manship said. "As a reliever, you can throw everything right away, so I kind of like that. You don't have to really hold back and try to get through the order one time without showing them your breaking pitches."

With Perkins, Matt Capps and Brian Duensing all virtual locks, the Twins likely have four bullpen spots up for grabs. Right-hander Kyle Waldrop has turned heads this spring, but Manship is quietly gaining the confidence of people in the organization.

Today's result

Twins 5, Marlins 2 (in Jupiter)

• Twins' spring record: 9-8

Carl Pavano stretched out to 4 2/3 innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits and three walks and a strikeout. He didn't allow any runs until a Hanley Ramirez two-run homer with two outs in the fifth.

Numbers game

3: Home runs this spring for Danny Valencia, who smacked a solo shot off Ricky Nolasco in the first inning.

.571: Michael Hollimon's batting average after a 4-for-4 performance on Saturday.

.320: Ben Revere's batting average after a 3-for-4 performance. Revere also stole his third base of the spring.

Health report

• RHP Scott Baker threw a 37-pitch bullpen session on Saturday at "about 75 to 80 percent," as he put it. Baker doesn't expect to feel any soreness on Sunday, but the true test for his tender elbow will come when he ramps it up in another bullpen session on Monday. It's still likely Baker will start the season on the disabled list.

On deck

Sunday: vs. Pirates, 12:05 p.m. LHP Francisco Liriano vs. RHP Charlie Morton
Monday: @ Red Sox, 12:35 p.m. RHP Jason Marquis vs. TBA

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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