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Updated: March 4th, 2012 4:52pm
Notebook: Miscues will prove to be teachable moments for Twins

Notebook: Miscues will prove to be teachable moments for Twins

by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Minnesota Twins spent three extra days this spring working on fundamentals after that area of their game proved to be a massive trouble-spot last season as they lost 99 times.

So manager Ron Gardenhire is keeping a close eye on the progress his club is making in that area.

There were two things he wasn't too happy to see in the Twins' 8-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox in a split-squad game at JetBlue Park.

The first happened in the fourth inning when third baseman Sean Burroughs was unable to handle a ball hit by Adrian Gonzalez. Shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka attempted to catch the ball in the air in shallow left field after it kicked up after going off Burroughs.

Nishioka struggled to gain control and made an errant throw home on which Dustin Pedroia tried to score. However, pitcher Phil Dumatrait backed up the play and was able to flip the ball to catcher Rene Rivera to get the out.

The next batter, Mike Aviles, singled up the middle to score two runs.

In the seventh inning, Ben Revere got caught in a rundown between first and second base on a play where the Red Sox appeared to be condeding second base. Revere, though, left too early and the pitcher was able to make the throw to first base to start the rundown.

The Twins' Darin Mastroianni was then thrown out at home as he tried to score while Revere was hung up.

"It's a work in progress," Gardenhire said of the error by Burroughs. "But it wasn't fun. We dont' want to see the ball bouncing. We just want to catch the ball and not panic and if we miss a play then we can't react like we did after that. A couple of different people tried to hurry and got all excited."

Gardenhire then brought up the pickoff play.

"It's just like Ben Revere taking off and running," he said. "They are not covering second base and he got picked off. They are letting him go and he takes off running before the pitcher throws the ball home. Did you recognize that? They are not covering. You can't get picked off. ... That's the fundamentals of the game. That's the basics.

"He runs, they pick him off and they're not even covering second. They're not throwing the ball. We know that. He tried three times in a row and no one moved. So do you understand that? And that's the same as the defense. We talk over and over about catching it, getting the ball in your glove and then we're going to do something with it.

"Every time we try to get too quick and we're spinning and turning that's what happens. It becomes that and that was that today. A couple of times where the ball starts going all over. We have to control the ball. That's been our whole theme in spring training. Control the ball, catch the ball, bury the ball in your glove and then we'll see what we can do with it afterward. Today got a little out of whack. It's early, it's early. A couple of funny plays. We have to be better than that."

Red Sox cruise

Lars Anderson hit a grand slam off Jason Bulger in a five-run bottom of the seventh inning as the Red Sox handed the Twins their first loss of spring training.

Bulger gave up five runs, four walks and two hits in the inning.

"He said something about, 'He's never, ever had anything like that happen,'" Gardenhire said of Bulger's inning. "He just didn't have it. He couldn't throw the ball, he couldn't get the ball where he wanted to, then when he started trying to spin the ball then he kind of grooved it and you saw what (Anderson) did."

Revere had two of the Twins seven hits in a game in which Nishioka played the entire game and went 0-for-5.

Twins win in Port Charlotte

Catcher J.R. Towles hit a two-run homer in the top of the ninth inning, leading a Twins split-squad to a 5-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday in Port Charlotte. First baseman Chris Parmelee also had a two-run homer for the Twins.

Second baseman Alexi Casilla went 3-for-5, and left fielder Trevor Plouffe went 2-for-3 in the victory.

Lefthander Aaron Thompson pitched a scoreless eighth inning to earn the win and righty Casey Fien finished for the save.

First impressions

The Red Sox played their first spring training game in JetBlue on Sunday, having moved to the new facility after having played at City of Palm's Park since 1993.

The 106-acre JeBlue cost a reported $77.8 million and is located in Lee County, the same county as Hammond Stadium is in, and has the same playing field dimensions as Fenway Park. That includes a Green Monster in left field.

"I like it. It's gorgeous, it's actually beautiful," Gardenhire said. "I like the openness of it, I like the wall, that's cool. The clubhouses are gorgeous, they're just a long walk. They're in the left field line and we're over here on this side (first base dugout)."

The Red Sox complex has more practice fields than the Twins have, but Lee County is expected to make improvements to keep the Twins happy.

"Look out Lee County, here we come," Gardenhire said. Don't worry your taxes are going to go up eventually to fix our field so don't even think about it."

As for the potential for those improvements to make Hammond Stadium more like Target Field, Gardenhire said he'd only like to see one thing changed in that way.

"Just my office," he kidded.

What's at stake?

With the Twins playing in Lee County and the Red Sox located next door in Fort Myers, the teams have spent spring training playing for the Mayor's Cup since 1993.

While the media notes issued Sunday by both teams referenced the fact the series was set to resume, Gardenhire took issue with that. Somewhat jokingly, Gardenhire feels that with the Red Sox now out of Fort Myers and in Lee County the Mayor's Cup is no more.

"It was over with, we won it last year, we've got the cup," Gardenhire said. "It's over with. They've got to try to figure out a way to take it back. That don't mean they're going to get it back. We've got it, it's ours for good. They can come up with any kind of other cup they want to. It can be plastic. ... We've got the right cup."

The Twins, who will play the Red Sox six times this spring, won the Cup in 2011 by winning three of five games from the Red Sox. If Gardenhire gets his way, the Twins will have won the all-time series for the Mayor's Cup with a 59-51-1 record against the Red Sox in spring training since 1993.

The Twins won the Cup 11 of the 19 years.

Wait and see

Gardenhire hasn't made a decision yet about how much versatility he will demand from his utility player.

"I haven't got there yet," he said. "I like the fact that the utility guy could play all of them. But I haven't decided that's the way it's going to go. It's going to be determined by the players out on the field. They're going to tell me what I keep and how I work my roster. Really, that's the way it's going to break down."

One player battling for a backup spot on the roster is Burroughs, who signed with the Twins during the offseason after spending last season with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Burroughs would be expected to play behind Justin Morneau at first base or Danny Valencia at third if he makes the team.

Before Sunday's game, Gardenhire sounded as if he's been impressed.

"I like the fact that he's played some baseball, he knows how to play the game,
Gardenhire said. "You don't have to really tell him a whole heck of a lot. He can come off the bench, he can swing it and, you know what? He has some ability, he can play. I like that fact. He's going to be pushing some people here.

"As I've said, I was excited to see him coming into camp, I've heard nothing but really, really good things about him and the way he handles himself and the way he's going about his business.

"He's been through a lot so he's motivated and that' a good thing. I like the fact that he's here. I'm excited to have him here and we'll see what happens at the end. I'm watching him pretty good. I think he's a good player."

Quick hits from the Jet

Second baseman Ray Chang made a nice diving stab to his right on a ball hit by Will Middlebrooks in the third inning. Chang was able to get Middlebrooks at first base.

Righthander Jared Burton, who signed a minor league contract with the Twins after spending the past five seasons with the Cincinnati Reds, retired all three batters he faced in the third inning. Burton has a good chance to stick in the Twins bullpen if he can impress.

Numbers game from the Jet

• 8,886: Announced attendance for the first game at JetBlue Park. It was announced as a sellout despite the fact the Red Sox media notes say the facility has 9,900 seats and a total capacity of approximately 11,000.

• 135.0: Bulger's spring training ERA after he gave up five runs on four walks and two hits in the bottom of the seventh inning. Bulger walked the four batters and then gave up a grand slam to Lars Anderson. That gave the Red Sox a 7-2 lead.

Health report

Luke Hughes (shoulder) was the Twins' designated hitter Sunday and went 0-for-3 with a strikeout. In his second at-bat, Hughes hit a drive that Red Sox center fielder Jacob Ellsbury caught in front of the 379 sign.

• Chang was OK after taking a knee to the chin from Oscar Tejeda in the bottom of the seventh inning as he slid into second base to try to break up a double play on a ball hit by Darin Mastroianni.

On deck

Monday: vs. Red Sox, 6:05 p.m. RHP Jason Marquis vs. RHP Clay Buccholz

Tuesday: at Rays, 12:05 p.m. RHP Scott Baker vs. RHP Jeff Niemann

Wednesday: at Baltimore, 12:05 p.m. RHP Carl Pavano vs. LHP Wei-Yin Chen  

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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