Notes: Durbin roughed up in debut
Right-hander trying to shake off injury, rust
FORT MYERS, Fla. - Right-hander J.D. Durbin knows what is at stake for him this spring. Out of options and returning from an injury that has shelved him for the past eight months, Durbin has quite a hill to climb if he is to stay with the Twins organization.And a rough return to the mound Wednesday in Minnesota's 5-2 loss to Pittsburgh wasn't exactly the way that Durbin had hoped to get that climb started. In his first outing since he was sidelined on June 29 with nerve damage in his right biceps, Durbin didn't do much to earn a roster spot as he gave up three runs on four hits while issuing one walk and recording one hit-by-pitch in one inning of relief. "The first one has been rocky for a lot of guys," Durbin said. "Get the rust off like [Johan] Santana, it's that way for me, too. I've got a lot more than he does. Mine's a couple layers thick." And Santana isn't the one fighting for a roster spot either, unlike Durbin, who has just four Major League appearances in his career after being selected in the second round of the 2000 First-Year Player Draft by the Twins. With Durbin having thrown just a handful of bullpens before this outing and still working to get his arm strength back, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said that the team knew it could be a bit of a rough go his first time out. "He goes out on the mound facing hitters for the first time, you can obviously tell that his location is not going to be anywhere near where it needs to be," Gardenhire said. "We're just happy to see him get out there and get an inning in and now we'll see if he can get a better feel for the ball. He hadn't thrown in a long, long time and we have to understand that with him." Durbin, 25, threw about 25-30 pitches in the outing and said that he used all of his pitch selection except for his slider. There were some pitches that felt good for Durbin, but in the end the results just weren't there, and it's something he knows will have to change, and fast. "It's not coming out of my hand the way I want it to, but in terms of strength, I feel great," Durbin said. "Everything is there. I just have to put it all together." Coming back around: The Twins' pitching was a big concern over the first week, but after four strong outings from their starters, it's clear the team feels that the tide has shifted. Boof Bonser's performance was the latest positive for a club whose unsettled rotation has been the biggest question mark this spring. After a rough first outing in Sarasota against the Reds where he gave up three runs on five hits in just one inning, Bonser rebounded on Wednesday to allow just two hits over three scoreless innings against the Pirates. "I think it was location, that's something I didn't have my last outing," Bonser said of the difference. "I told them after that last outing, I was ready to rock and roll. The hour-and-a-half bus ride home last time didn't treat me too good." Local hero: Infielder Tommy Watkins has always received a warm welcome in his hometown of Ft. Myers, but the fans really had something to cheer about Wednesday when Watkins belted a leadoff home run in the sixth inning off Pirates pitcher Marty McLeary.
It's the second Grapefruit League home run of Watkins' career and the first to come at Hammond Stadium. The raucous cheers certainly meant a lot for the man nicknamed "The Mayor of Ft. Myers," but he's hoping for more than just being a spring hero for the Twins. And considering the lack of depth that the Twins have in their middle infield right now, the utility man could be given a shot after playing some solid defense."He's getting plenty of opportunities to play around down here and shortstop will be his next," Gardenhire said. "You can throw his name in the mix ... He's definitely a guy that can help you one way or another, whether he starts the year with you or comes up sometime during the year. He's a guy that could maybe come up and help us out." The unshrinkable infirmary report: The Twins injury list continues to remain long, but there were a few changes to it Wednesday, including some additions. Right-hander Matt Garza's MRI on his neck came back clear. The plan now is for Garza to meet with a neurologist to try and determine the cause of his neck pain. If nothing can be found from that appointment, Gardenhire said the next step could be to have the right-handed pitcher see a chiropractor. Infielder Alejandro Machado (tight shoulder) has been cleared to do all of his work besides throwing. He has been able to swing and field ground balls but the team is still waiting a few days before they let him start throwing again. Infielder Jeff Cirillo (sore neck) remains day to day . Outfielder Lew Ford (slight meniscus tear in right knee) has been progressing with his rehabilitation program. DH Ken Harvey (pulled chest muscle) still has not been cleared to swing the bat. Left-hander Ricky Barrett felt a little bit of discomfort in his elbow while throwing in the ninth inning of Wednesday's game and will be checked out by a doctor. Right-hander Brad Voyles has been dealing with a sore elbow. After a few days of rest, Voyles has now started to play catch again. Twins tidbits: The Twins announced Wednesday that they surpassed the one million ticket milestone for the 2007 regular season. It's the earliest the team has reached the mark since 1993, and the third consecutive year that the Twins have exceeded one million tickets sold before the start of the regular season...Carlos Silva and Sidney Ponson are each scheduled to throw three innings in Friday's game at Vero Beach against the Dodgers. Up next: The Twins will split up their squad on Thursday, as one squad hosts the Red Sox at 12:05 p.m. CT, and the other heads across the state to Jupiter to face the Cardinals. Johan Santana will duel Red Sox right-hander Curt Schilling for the second time this season in the first contest while Scott Baker needs to rebound dramatically as he gets the start against St. Louis right-hander Kip Wells.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.