FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano was impressive against the Rays on Thursday, facing the minimum over three innings with five strikeouts.
Liriano allowed a leadoff single to Desmond Jennings to open the game, but Jennings was caught stealing later in the inning. Liriano struck out two batters in the first, two more in the second and another in the third.
He chalked up his second straight scoreless outing to improved health, as he dealt with shoulder issues last spring.
"Last year dealing with shoulder problems was tough, so I think pitching in winter ball helped me," said Liriano, who pitched in his native Dominican Republic during the offseason. "I'm doing better locating my fastball. I struck out a few guys with my changeup, too. So I pitched better than last time, and everything is getting better. I'm just trying to go deep into games with less pitches per inning."
Liriano said the shoulder issues that plagued him during Spring Training last year carried on into the season, as he struggled during the year with a 5.09 ERA in 134 1/3 innings.
"I battled through it the whole year," Liriano said. "Right before Spring Training I got hurt, and so I tried to battle through it, but it never got better. So it was a battle the whole year. I felt OK for like a month, but it came back. So it was up and down. But that's part of the game. But right now it feels 100 percent."
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he liked what he saw from Liriano, especially because he didn't have to rely on his slider to get results. Liriano threw 34 pitches, but only four sliders, according to pitching coach Rick Anderson.
"I thought he was good," Gardenhire said. "I thought he worked good in the strike zone. Andy and I were talking early that it looked like he was flying out, but he really commanded it pretty good. He was tall on his backside, as Andy likes to say, and then had a nice little angle with his pitches, and his breaking ball was pretty decent, and his changeup. I'd say that's a pretty good day -- he only threw four sliders in 34 pitches. He controlled the game out there."
No restrictions: Mauer, Morneau back in lineup
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau both played against the Rays on Thursday to mark the first time the pair played in back-to-back games this spring.
Mauer and Morneau both played in Wednesday's "B" game against the Red Sox -- Mauer started at first base and Morneau served as designated hitter -- and were back in the lineup against the Rays. Mauer caught and went 0-for-2, while Morneau started at first base and went 0-for-3.
Mauer is scheduled to serve as DH on Friday against the Cardinals, while Morneau has the day off. Morneau is expected to return to DH on Saturday against the Pirates in Bradenton.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said it's been a change of pace to be able to put them in the lineup without any restrictions, as they were both hindered by injuries at this time last year.
"It's kind of what we talked about coming in about not having [doctors] from the outside dictating everything that goes on," Gardenhire said. "So it's nice to be able to write the lineups out. It's nice to not have somebody tell us to wait and do this instead. I like being able to control this thing because I've done that my whole career. Last year was a little bit different with a lot of players."
Hughes makes forgettable debut at second
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Luke Hughes made his first appearance at second base in Grapefruit League play on Thursday, but it came with a bad result, as he made a costly error in the ninth inning that led to the winning run in the Twins' 1-0 loss to the Rays.
Hughes, who sprained his right shoulder in a home-plate collision in his native Australia in early March, was restricted to designated hitter duty until Thursday. But he came in as a late substitute at second base, and appeared fine on a throw to first in the eighth inning.
But with two outs and a runner at second in the ninth, Hughes fielded a grounder from Tim Beckham cleanly, but threw it away to allow a run to score.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was pleased to see Hughes back playing the field, but said it was a play he should've made.
"That's an easy out," Gardenhire said. "He told me, 'I'm fine, let's do this, I can play.' So I put him out there and he made a doggone bad throw. It just wasn't good. He bounced it. You'd have to ask him if his arm is hurting because he told me he was fine. I've been told by two or three people that he's fine. I wouldn't put him out there if he says he wasn't fine."
Coach White diagnosed with acid reflux
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Twins first-base coach Jerry White spent Monday night in the hospital after complaining of chest and stomach tightness, but was back on the field in his usual role on Thursday against the Rays.
White, who also underwent a stress test on Tuesday, said he feels fine, and that he was diagnosed with acid reflux. He said the doctors recommended that he change his diet and take medicine to counter heartburn.
"I just need to cut down on my spices and sauces," White said. "I eat right, but I like hot stuff and fried stuff, and I need to stay away from that. I actually eat well as it is, but sometimes I stay away from the fiber and have too much hot sauce and fried foods."