Notes: Garza makes his case on mound
Ortiz hits a rough patch; injured Twins making progress
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Matt Garza isn't vocally lobbying for the final spot in the Twins rotation.But Garza's decision not to talk about the fact that he is one of six pitchers remaining for five starting spots doesn't mean he's unaware of the situation. "If I get caught up in that, I won't be doing the job," Garza said. "Like I said in the beginning, I'm here to make their decision tougher. It's nothing for me to worry about. If I have to go back down, I go down with a vengeance. That's all it is." Garza certainly made his argument on the mound Sunday. The right-hander pitched three innings of relief against the Phillies in the club's 10-2 loss and gave up one run on four hits while striking out three. It wasn't the smoothest of outings, as Garza found himself in a few jams. Yet the pitcher was able to work out of them without too much damage. After allowing the first two batters he faced in the game to reach on a single and a walk, Garza settled down to fan the next two before getting a ground-ball out to escape the inning unscathed. Trying to earn a spot in the rotation hasn't been the easiest task for Garza. Most of his time on the mound has come in relief this spring, as his only start came in the team's very first Grapefruit League game. It's something Garza admits has been unusual. "It's a different thing, but it's innings, so I can't complain," Garza said. "I'd rather throw them here than at Minor League camp, because at least I know I still have a shot." Following Carlos Silva's very rough outing Saturday when he allowed nine runs on 11 hits over 3 1/3 innings, it's clear that Garza still has a legitimate chance of earning a spot in the rotation. Despite Silva having been penciled in as a starter since the team picked up his $4.35 million option this offseason, there have been hints from manager Ron Gardenhire that the team won't hesitate to make some changes if Silva's struggles continue. But there are still some question marks that remain with Garza. The 23-year-old pitched with mostly a fastball Sunday, and it's that same tendency that caused him to record a 3-6 record and 5.76 ERA when he was called up for the final two months of last season. "You can't just throw fastballs in this league and get away with it," Gardenhire said. "It's later in the game, different hitters, so he could get away with it today. But [his ability to get out of it] shows he's got a great arm." Despite being delayed for a week this spring due to some neck pain, Garza still feels like he would be ready to start the season in the rotation. Garza threw 50 pitches Sunday and while he admits he's still a bit behind some of the other pitchers, he doesn't think that should affect the overall race for the final rotation spot. "I'll be ready, no matter what," Garza said. "It doesn't matter how much work I've had or anything else. If they need me, I'll be ready."
Still working: If the Twins didn't have enough to worry about on the pitching front with Silva struggling, the team got another less than ideal performance when Ramon Ortiz got knocked around in his start Sunday.Ortiz sailed through the early part of spring, racking up a 0.75 ERA through four starts. But on Sunday, Ortiz allowed six runs on nine hits in 4 1/3 innings. Five of those runs came courtesy of three homers that the right-hander gave up on the day, including two to Phillies second baseman Chase Utley. "In this ballpark, the ball has a tendency to fly pretty good here," Gardenhire said. "He made a couple mistakes with his slider, not getting it toward the dirt when he got ahead." Still, Gardenhire was pleased with Ortiz's ability to get his work in and stretch out for a total of 80 pitches. Ortiz also felt that he was on track for his first start of the season. And despite some of the recent rough outings from the starting staff, the skipper is trying not to read too much into the performances right now. "Our staff last year was lights-out coming out of Spring Training, and look how we started," Gardenhire said, referring to the rotation's 7.21 ERA in April last year. "I'm trying not to put as much stock into it as I did. I just want to see guys going in with confidence." Injury update: The Twins' long list of injuries may not be dwindling quite yet, but there was progress to report Sunday. Just three days after being diagnosed with a stress reaction in his left fibula, catcher Joe Mauer was able to take part in some light activity Sunday and completed a little bit of work in the field. Gardenhire expects Mauer to be available as soon as Wednesday's game. Earlier in the day Sunday, Gardenhire admitted that he was a tad worried about Nick Punto's sore groin and how it might affect the third baseman's ability to start the season. But the skipper felt much better following the club's 10-2 loss, when he received a report that Punto was feeling much better when he arrived at the ballpark in Fort Myers on Sunday morning and was able to hit in the cage. The hope is that Punto also could be available Wednesday. Jason Bartlett was also reported to be doing fine Sunday after bruising two fingers on his right hand when he was hit by a line drive in Saturday's game vs. the Pirates. Expectations are still that Bartlett could be ready to play Monday. Coming up: The Twins will host the Orioles on Monday for the two teams' last meeting before Opening Day. Right-hander Sidney Ponson will get the start for Minnesota in the 12:05 p.m. CT contest as he faces Baltimore lefty Adam Loewen.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.