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03/21/2013 11:12 PM ET

De Vries unhittable, Hendriks close in latest test

Rotation hopefuls combine to throw eight innings of one-hit ball against Yankees

TAMPA, Fla. -- Cole De Vries' excellent Grapefruit League work continued apace Thursday night, but Liam Hendriks flipped the script on his recently rocky spring.

Entering the night having allowed nine runs over his last 10 innings, Hendriks got the start against the Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field and pitched four strong innings. The right-hander allowed only one hit, two walks and an unearned run while striking out two.

De Vries, meanwhile, put together another scoreless outing, his fifth in six Spring Training appearances. He gave up only one walk and struck out two over four innings, lowering his Grapefruit League ERA to 0.64. And so the battle for a rotation spot continues among De Vries, Hendriks, Samuel Deduno and P.J. Walters.

"I thought they both threw the ball good. You saw they only had one hit out there," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Those guys kept the pace of the game. They threw the ball over for the most part. That's what you have to see. We're looking for people to make decisions for us, and those guys both stepped up tonight and threw the ball very, very well. Good for them. ... Both of them did the same thing. They made pitches when they had to."

Hendriks attributed his strong outing to a more relaxed approach to throwing his offspeed pitches. His curveball neutralized New York's lefty hitters, and his slider held the righties in check. The reason both pitches worked so well Thursday night, he said, was a little bit of advice he received from pitching coach Rick Anderson after his most recent side session.

"In my bullpen, my offspeed, I could not locate a single thing. It was kind of disgraceful," Hendriks said. "But I spoke with him, and he just said to relax. Just relax and throw it nice and easy and everything like that. It paid off tonight. I felt really good, was able to throw everything for strikes and have some good breaking stuff as well.

"I'm always kind of relaxed. I think it's the Aussie nature. It's mainly just [that] I was gripping the ball too tight. I was trying to choke it and throw it as hard as I could every time. It's just not the way I throw my offspeed stuff. I need to relax and take it nice and easy and make sure that my arm action and everything is the same rather than trying to ramp it up a little bit on offspeed."

De Vries got some similar advice from Anderson after rushing his delivery during his first three innings before everything started to click in the eighth. Some of that may have been a product of coming out of the bullpen, but De Vries was quick to note that he'd be happy to get used to it if it means securing a job somewhere on the Twins' pitching staff.

"I know there's spots open. I have no idea how many are available in the bullpen," De Vries said. "But I will take any spot that's available as long as it's up here and not in Rochester."

Mauer, Pelfrey among Twins to work in Minors games

TAMPA, Fla. -- Most of the Twins' regulars spent Thursday on the back fields playing Minor League games, and as far as manager Ron Gardenhire knew, they all got their work in as expected.

Gardenhire said he watched most of those players -- a group that included Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Trevor Plouffe and Josh Willingham -- take one at-bat before he headed north on Interstate 75 to Tampa, where the Twins faced the Yankees.

"I'm just assuming everything went fine," the manager said. "I'll have a report back on my desk when we get back."

Right-hander Mike Pelfrey started against the Orioles' Triple-A squad in Sarasota, and he threw five innings on 72 pitches. Pelfrey was slated to start Wednesday night against the Rays before that game was postponed due to rain. Behind the plate for Pelfrey was Mauer, who went 1-for-2 with a double.

Plouffe, who has been working his way back in Minor League games from a strained right calf, made another appearance on the back fields Thursday. Gardenhire saw Plouffe record a hit and run the bases without incident, and the third baseman is expected to be back in the Twins' lineup Friday against the Yankees at Hammond Stadium.

"Everything was fine, so hopefully he got through the rest of that game," Gardenhire said. "I've got him playing third base if everything went well at the end of that."

Worth noting

• Gardenhire said he'd like to have Mauer catch each of the Twins' new pitchers at least once or twice before the regular season begins, which is why Mauer joined Pelfrey in a Triple-A game in Sarasota and will be behind the plate to catch right-hander Vance Worley on Friday.

Gardenhire said it's not imperative that Mauer do so, as he's already seen them all during bullpen sessions, but he'd prefer that work to come in games, as some of those situations can't be replicated elsewhere.

"We'll see how it all works out," Gardenhire said. "I don't want to kill Joe Mauer leading up to this thing, either, but I want him to see them."

• Gardenhire said he will wait for pitching coach Rick Anderson to tell him when to start using his relievers on back-to-back days in preparation for their regular season workload. But he didn't expect that to happen until the final three or four days of Grapefruit League play.

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.