FORT MYERS, FLA. – Joe Mauer was 1-for-7 this spring, and the Twins were batting .218 entering Tuesday’s game against the Orioles. Both trends changed in a hurry.
Mauer doubled twice, including once with the bases loaded, and the Twins scored in four of their eight turns at bat, breaking a three-game Grapefruit League losing streak with a come-from-behind 9-8 victory at Hammond Stadium.
Jorge Polanco smacked a 350-foot home run onto the right field party deck, Byron Buxton doubled home a run, and outfield invitee Ryan LaMarre collected his eighth hit in 16 spring at-bats. And with the score tied in the seventh inning, minor league outfielder Nick Buss lined a single to right field, driving home LaMarre with the go-ahead run.
Mauer has played only three games this spring, under manager Paul Molitor’s ease-him-in approach for the veteran. The plan seems to be working, Molitor said.
“He had a couple of really good at-bats [Tuesday],” Molitor said. After taking several pitches in the fourth inning, “he finally got an off-speed pitch up that he hammered.” An inning later, with the bases loaded and two outs, “he took two strikes off [Orioles lefthander Joely Rodriguez]. Didn’t seem to faze him too much.” Apparently not — Mauer launched an opposite-field drive into the left-field corner, scoring three runs.
“Some guys don’t need too many” spring at-bats to get ready, Molitor said. “Joe’s never been about a big number, it’s just about feel.”
Adalberto Mejia, who said he has now lost 16 pounds from the 275 he finished at last season, allowed three runs in three innings, including a long home run to left-center by former Twins infielder Danny Valencia. He gave up two more runs in the third on a soft liner to left by Manny Machado; that Baltimore rally was triggered when, for the second day in a row, a Twins center fielder — Buxton, in this case — lost a routine fly ball in the sun and allowed it to drop for a double.
Trevor Hildenberger allowed two runs, including a solo home run by Orioles outfielder Anthony Santander, and Taylor Rogers gave up two more on three singles and a Caleb Joseph double.