Twins 6, Pirates 4
Minnesota’s catcher had been sidelined since March 22 with a stress reaction in his left leg, a precursor to a stress fracture. He hit a three-run double in the third that scored Jason Bartlett, Luis Castillo and Nick Punto—which returned from a strained right groin.
“It’s a good finale to the spring,” Twins general manager Terry Ryan said. “Everything is in line and in order. We’ve accomplished everything here we set out to accomplish.”
Pirates catcher Ronny Paulino hit run-scoring doubles in the first and third innings, finishing spring training with a .481 average.
Before the game, the Pirates put NL batting champion Freddy Sanchez on the disabled list, a move retroactive to March 23. Sanchez, eligible to be activated April 7. hasn’t played in a major league spring game since he sprained his right knee while turning a double play March 6.
He played in minor league games Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, but said his swing still isn’t where he wants it to be.
“I need to be able to take major league at-bats,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez, who hit .344 last season, will stay at the Pirates’ minor league camp and play in extended spring games for several days, and may play a game or two at Triple-A Indianapolis on a rehabilitation assignment. Indianapolis opens its season Thursday.
Jose Castillo, his replacement at second, went 2-for-3.
The Pirates and Twins played in front of a sellout crowd of 8,029, capping a month that saw Minnesota draw a Hammond Stadium record of 129,544 in 17 games.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire set his rotation After AL Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana starts Monday at the Metrodome against Baltimore’s Erik Bedard, the Twins will follow with Boof Bonser, Ramon Ortiz and Carlos Silva. Santana or Sidney Ponson will Saturday.
“Our pitchers looked good,” Twins catcher Mike Redmond said. “The guys got all of their work in. A lot of the guys have been ready now for a couple of weeks.”
Someone from the Twins wrote “Go Ugly Early,” on the team’s message board in the morning, referencing an inside joke.
But the Twins hope to win more games early and avoid last season’s 25-32 start. A series of midseason moves then helped the Twins surge to 96 wins and win the AL Central.
“I think we’re further ahead than we were last year,” Redmond said. “Nobody wants to start out slow. We want to get off to a good start. We’re going to be tested early. It’s going to be a challenge right out of the chute. That’s just baseball for you. That’s the big leagues.”
Ponson, whose contract was purchased from the minors Saturday, gave up four runs—three earned—and 10 hits in five innings.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Ponson said of the regular season. “I have to prove people wrong. A lot of people. I love this team. We’re all having fun. We’re all going to do the work we have to do to win ballgames. I could have had a bad spring, and I wouldn’t be talking to you guys. Instead, I’m getting on a plane for Minneapolis.”
The Twins reassigned 1B Ken Harvey to minor league camp.<