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Twins open Spring Training by splitting a pair of, well, split-squad games

Offense aplenty on the first day of spring training game action

MLB: Spring Training-Minnesota Twins Photo Day
Joey Gallo is perfect so far at the plate as a Twin.
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The old saying is that pitching is always ahead of hitting early in Spring Training. That adage did not hold true on the first day of game action for the Minnesota Twins on Saturday afternoon.

The Twins had something resembling an ‘A’ squad play at home in Fort Myers against the Tampa Bay Rays and sent their ‘B’ squad to take on the Baltimore Orioles on the road. Both versions of the Twins got off to hot starts, getting up 3-0 on the road and 6-0 at home. Ultimately, Twins ‘A’ beat the Rays, 8-4, and Twins ‘B’ fell short to the O’s by a final score of 10-5.

Let’s take a spin through some of the notable moments and box score lines from Saturday’s opener(s).

Notables from the Twins’ win over the Rays

  • Joey Gallo led off and played left field, with Max Kepler in right and Michael A. Taylor in center. While left field is indeed where Gallo is likely to see most of his time in 2023, the guess here is that he was mostly batting leadoff so that the Twins could ensure that he’d get a couple of at-bats before taking him out of the game, similar to how MLB teams will often bat rehabbing big-leaguers in the top two spots in the lineup for minor-league clubs. He played well, going 2-for-2 with a double and a run scored.
  • Taylor also went 2-for-2, and each Twins starter in the ‘A’ game other than Kepler and Kyle Farmer had a hit. Farmer did manage a sacrifice fly to cap the scoring in a six-run bottom of the second inning.
  • Brooks Lee, last year’s top pick and the Twins’ top prospect, started at designated hitter and slapped an RBI single in his first at-bat.
  • Kenta Maeda returned after missing all of last season due to Tommy John surgery and threw one inning, giving up one hit and getting one strikeout while throwing 13 pitches (10 strikes).
  • Jhoan Duran was next up, pitching a perfect second inning with one strikeout. Jovani Moran followed suit in the third with two strikeouts of his own.
  • Jorge Alcala and bubble reliever Cole Sands each struggled, giving up two earned runs apiece in their respective frames.
  • Edouard Julien, this year’s version of Jose Miranda in terms of fast-rising, offensive-minded prospects, started at second base and went 1-for-1 with a walk and a run scored.
  • Former Tigers infielder Willi Castro, a non-roster invitee to camp, started at third and tripled, driving in two runs.

Notables from the Twins' loss to the Orioles

  • The Twins ‘B’ squad did include one surefire member of the Opening Day roster in Nick Gordon, a bubble player in Trevor Larnach, and intriguing prospects in former first-round picks Austin Martin and Aaron Sabato, plus power-hitting outfielder Matt Wallner.
  • Gordon led off and played shortstop, going 1-for-2 with a triple. Larnach was 0-for-2 with a pair of strikeouts and a walk, while Wallner struck out three times.
  • While offense was in short suplly for much of the Twins’ starting lineup in this one, they did get a jolt from Mark Contreras, who spent much of last season bouncing between Triple-A St. Paul and the big club. Contreras clubbed a two-run home run in the top of the fourth that extended the Twins’ lead to 3-0 at the time.
  • Sabato was 0-for-1 with three walks and Martin was 0-for-1 with a sacrifice fly. Kala’i Rosario, the Twins’ fifth-round pick in 2020, hit a two-run home run.
  • Curtis Terry, who spent all of last season with the St. Paul Saints, hit a three-run homer in the fifth inning to give the Orioles the lead for good.
  • Louis Varland started and pitched well, throwing two scoreless innings and only allowing one hit. Randy Dobnak came next and was a mixed bag at best, giving up a run in two innings while issuing two leadoff walks, hitting a batter, giving up two hits and dancing around trouble for his entire stint.
  • Journeyman reliever Brock Stewart gave up four earned runs in an inning, and former third-round pick Blayne Enlow gave up two in his frame. Connor Sadzeck, who appeared in a pair of games with Milwaukee last season, was tuned up for three runs on four hits in just a third of an inning.

Overall, the Twins bats impressed on Saturday, and the arms that have a shot at making the big-league roster performed well, too. Tough to be too disappointed in this as a first full day of game action.

Next, the Twins take on the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday at 12:05 CT. Joe Ryan is listed as the Twins’ probable starting pitcher.