Notes: Silva's work with sinker pays off
Gardenhire, Anderson impressed as starter relaxes, executes
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Five innings, two hits and no runs.Think right-hander Carlos Silva was on a mission? A spring-long search to find his sinker had Silva struggling to get results. But just a day after officially being anointed with a spot in the rotation, Silva, who entered the day with an 11.02 spring ERA, came out looking like a pitcher ready to prove that the Twins' decision to stick by him was not the wrong one. "It was a big confidence builder for everyone, but mostly for him," Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson said after the start. For Silva, the outing was the culmination of a lot of hard work he's put in this spring to prepare himself for the season. Admittedly, Silva has been searching for the form that he had in '05, and at times it's been a frustrating search. It was just in his last start that Silva tried working on a new arm angle. And this time he saw the results, as the sinker dove and the ground-ball outs totaled six in Silva's five innings. After his last difficult start, where he had one very rough inning, Silva tried to downplay the importance of results. He said he felt good physically and things were on their way to righting themselves. With a better feel of mixing in his pitches and locating them Thursday, Silva gave renewed hope that he might just be onto something. "Last outing, I know it was an ugly fourth inning, but you can learn a lot from that." Silva said. "Last game, I just worked on arm angle and getting that feeling for my sinker. It feels more natural. The only difference today was mixing my pitches." There is at least one other thing that Silva has tried to focus on, along with the new arm angle, which is remaining relaxed on the mound. The fiery pitcher has at time relied on his intensity a little too much and admittedly overthrows in the wrong types of situations. But on Thursday, when runners did reach, Silva said he was able to change his demeanor -- and it was noticed by his manager. "His problem is not intensity, it's over-intensity," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He grips the ball too tight, and when he does that, the ball doesn't sink. But he was totally relaxed tonight, and that's what we were looking for: Relax, let the ball come out of your hand and dive. He got the angle, the arm in the right slot and everything was moving in and out. He was in a nice flow." The exact order of the rotation remains unknown, but the Twins did announce the starters for the team's opening homestand against the Orioles. Johan Santana will open up the series against Baltimore, with Boof Bonser going in Game 2 and Ramon Ortiz taking the mound in Game 3. After that, the rotation is up in the air. Silva had appeared to be looking at the fifth spot with his outings limited due to the off-days and a desire to keep Santana on his normal five days. But after this strong outing, that could all change. Silva said that he hadn't been told where he would fall in the order but he didn't put too much stock into the number. "As long as you help the team win, it doesn't matter if you're going to be the second, third or fourth one," Silva said. "For us to win, everybody has to pitch good." Waiting for a shot: Matt Garza spent most of Wednesday night trying to cool off from his disappointment of learning the news that he would be starting the year at Triple-A Rochester. The news was hard for Garza to take, but he admitted that it didn't come as a complete shock. Garza said he had the feeling the inkling all spring that his spot likely would be at Rochester -- at least to start the year. And the decision to have him keep pitching in relief over the past week just reinforced the notion.
"I kind of think it was in the plan the whole time to go with the veterans and give them their shot first," Garza said. "They are veterans. Give them their shot first and go from there. So I'll just come down here, do what I did last year and come right back up a little more determined this year."That determination was on display Thursday as Garza arrived early to Minor League camp. Garza said he had been told he could take the day off, but rather than sit around stewing, the 23-year-old chose to be out on the fields running and working out with his Rochester teammates. It also gave Garza a chance to have a sit-down with former Twins manager Tom Kelly, who gave him a bit of advice. "He said something in me had changed, and it wasn't the way I'm playing, but that I'm thinking too much," Garza said. "And it hit me I was. I've been thinking too much all spring. This time last year I was just pitching and letting it fly, and look at the results. Now I'm just going to go out there and play the game like I'm 8 years old." As for a timetable the Twins offered for a possible return, Garza said there wasn't a specific one given to him. The two groups discussed the fact that they want Garza to pitch on a regular basis, a luxury that being the fifth starter would not have allowed him. So rather than be specific, Garza said he just wants to be back as soon as possible. "It could be a month, three months or it could be a week," Garza said. "I'm not going to think anymore. I'm just going to go out, do what they ask and pitch." Opening Scene: The Twins have announced the plans for their annual Opening Day festivities for Monday as the team hosts the Orioles. The activities get underway at 6 a.m. CT as the Twins host the 12th annual "Breakfast on the Plaza." A rally will then take place at the Mall of America starting at 11 a.m. It will feature appearances by pitchers Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier along with Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew and Gardenhire. As for game-time events, former Twins pitcher Brad Radke is scheduled to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. The national anthem is set to be performed by former American Idol contestant and Edina native Paris Bennett. Twins tidbits: Catcher Joe Mauer (stress reaction in left fibula) played in his second Minor League game of the week and went 2-for-5 with a home run. Mauer also caught three innings for the second straight day. The plan now is to have Mauer travel with the Twins to Bradenton on Friday and catch a few innings against the Pirates. ... Nick Punto (sore groin) is expected to see his first game action since March 18 when he plays in a Minor League game Sunday. Punto will play three or four innings of defense and see a couple at-bats. The hope is to have him play in Saturday's game against the Pirates before breaking camp with the club. ... Left-hander Mike Venafro reported to Minor League camp but it doesn't guarantee that he will remain in the organization. Venafro has until Sunday to accept the assignment. Coming Up: The Twins head to Bradenton for their final road trip of the spring to take on the Pirates in a 12:05 p.m. CT contest. Ortiz will get the start for Minnesota as he faces Pirates left-hander Tom Gorzelanny.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.