PORT CHARLOTTE, FLA. – Six up, six down with a strikeout. Wednesday’s start couldn’t have gone any smoother for Twins lefthander Devin Smeltzer.
Then it was time to get over the hump, and the hump hit back.
“Spring training is about [building stamina], no doubt,” Smeltzer said Wednesday. “The first two innings went well, got a little tired in the third and things kind of spiraled from there. It’s expected this time of year.”
The first three Rays batters of the third inning reached base, including Kevan Smith, who hit an RBI single, and ninth-place hitter Mike Brosseau, who hit a two-run homer. Smeltzer gave up two more singles before getting out of the inning in an eventual 10-8 victory by the Twins.
“I thought he threw the ball well early,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said.
Smeltzer is satisfied with the progress he’s made with implementing his new slider, which he threw six times Wednesday. And he likes how his other pitches have come along.
“I think my stuff is the sharpest it has been,” Smeltzer said, “with all the adjustments we have made strengthwise and mechanically.”
Righthander Homer Bailey will make his Twins debut Friday when he starts against the Red Sox. He will be the last of the projected members of the starting rotation to make an appearance.
“We didn’t want to send him out there too early,” Baldelli said. “He’s in good shape. He’s been throwing the ball well. There’s no particular reason other than, for him, this is the program that is going to work best for him.”
Also, the Twins plan to start righthander Kenta Maeda on Sunday against the Rays in Port Charlotte. Also available for that game is multi-position player Yoshi Tsutsugo, who was signed by the Rays during the offseason, so the matchup will be closely watched by Japanese media and in their home country.
Bell on bench
The last time Mike Bell managed a baseball team, he was a Visalia Rawhide, back in 2009. But his on-the-job training this spring with Baldelli made Wednesday’s assignment easy.
Bell, who left his decadelong job as player development director for the Diamondbacks this offseason in order to become Baldelli’s new bench coach, handled the Twins’ home game Wednesday in Fort Myers.
“I knew this was going to be a good fit, but it’s probably been more than I expected, the connections,” he said of working with Baldelli and Derek Falvey, the Twins’ president of baseball operations. “They’re easy to work with, they’re fun to work with, they’re smart guys. I’ve already learned a lot being back in the dugout.”
• Baldelli declined to comment further on the absence of lefthander Lewis Thorpe, who left camp to take care of a personal issue. Indications are that he will return in less than two weeks. “We support him completely,” Baldelli said. “He is going to be back relatively soon.” Thorpe already has been away from camp for several days.
• The boxscore will show second baseman Luis Arraez was 0-for-3 Wednesday, but that didn’t reflect the quality of his at-bats. Leading off the game, he fouled off three of lefthander Blake Snell’s pitches and saw six in all before hitting a rocket caught by shortstop Willy Adames. In his next at-bat, he lined out to second baseman Mike Brosseau. “Those are the types of at-bats we saw the entire time in the big leagues last year,” Baldelli said. Arraez grounded out in the fifth, but even that pitch was barreled.
Righthander Randy Dobnak will make his second appearance of camp Thursday when he faces the Blue Jays at Hammond Stadium. Dobnak’s first outing, against the Gophers last Friday, did not count in the statistics. Lefthander Hyun-Jin Ryu, Toronto’s big free-agent addition during the offseason, will start for the Blue Jays. Tyler Duffey, Caleb Thielbar and Sam Clay also are scheduled to pitch.
La Velle E. Neal III