FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Toronto’s speedy outfielder Rajai Davis showed he has some power, too.
Davis went 3 for 4 with a home run and three RBIs for the Blue Jays in a 7-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Thursday.
The 5-foot-10, 195-pound Davis stole 50 bases — second-most in the AL — for the Oakland Athletics last season before coming to the Blue Jays in a November trade for a pair of minor leaguers. Davis doesn’t have a steal yet this spring, but he has two homers. He’s hitting .292 with two walks and four RBIs in 23 at-bats in exhibition games.
“I just think I’ve been able to be more consistent,” Davis said.
Inconsistency was a problem for him last season. He endured a 2-for-31 midsummer slump and found himself bumped from the leadoff spot for much of July and August before finishing September strong.
Davis batted first on Thursday, but Blue Jays manager John Farrell has yet to decide where Davis will be on opening day.
“He’s a guy we feel like when we acquired him. He’s a premium-type of outfielder,” Farrell said. “In Oakland, he was certainly putting some things together. We love his speed. We love his athleticism. The past four or five days, he has really put together some exciting at-bats.”
Farrell added: “He allows us to do a number of things out there, not just with his ability to steal a base and swing a bat but with his defense, too. His bat is much more consistent earlier in camp. He’s a multidimensional guy. He can be an exciting player.”
Twins starter Nick Blackburn, picked for the rotation last week by manager Ron Gardenhire, gave up two home runs, to Davis and Brett Lawrie. The right-hander allowed five runs, three earned, and seven hits in three innings. He struck out one and walked none.
“I threw a couple of good changeups and curveballs later,” Blackburn said. “I’m trying to work on getting my sinker over for strikes. It obviously wasn’t fun. I wasn’t locating my pitches, but they were also hitting the pitches were there.”
Twins relief pitcher Joe Nathan, continuing his comeback from elbow surgery last March, pitched a hitless fifth inning. He struck out one and walked one and has not given up a run this spring in four appearances.
“I felt great, but as far as pitches go, it wasn’t one of my better ones,” Nathan said. “Now I’m trying to get my slider a little better and get that to where it needs to be. So I think today I was maybe trying a little too hard. Everything’s been pretty good. I feel like I can get back out there and throw again.”
Blue Jays starter Jesse Litsch, vying for a spot in the rotation, struck out one, walked two and gave up two runs off three hits in 3 2-3 innings.
“He was maybe wild in the zone,” Farrell said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t turn a double play. He continues to maintain his stuff. We had him at 65 pitches, and we’re going to continue to advance that number.”
NOTES: The game started an hour late because of rain. Because of the soggy field conditions, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire scratched LF Delmon Young, 2B Tsuyoshi Nishioka and DH Jim Thome from the lineup. Young is expected to play on Friday for the first time this spring, due to a turf toe injury. Nishioka has a sore leg muscle. … Twins 1B Justin Morneau is also on track to play in his first Grapefruit League game on Friday; a concussion ended his season last July 7. “I’m sure he’s excited to get back out there,” Gardenhire said. “He’ll probably be a little nervous. It’s just another ballgame for most of us, but for him it’s a little bit different.”
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