FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Joe Mauer needed just two pitches to get back to business.
Mauer swung at the second pitch he saw in spring game and ended up with his first hit, and the Minnesota Twins beat Mike Pelfrey and the New York Mets 4-3 Wednesday.
“It’s not a shocker to anybody around here,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Mauer. “The biggest thing for Joe is to get his legs underneath him.”
Mauer, serving as the designated hitter while recovering from offseason surgery on his left knee, singled in three at-bats. The All-Star catcher is expected to play in the field for the first time Thursday in a minor league game.
Mauer hit .327 with nine home runs and 75 RBI last season, numbers that were down from .365, 28 homers and 96 RBI in 2009, when he won the American League Most Valuable Player Award.
He has spent the first weeks of spring training working on conditioning and strengthening the muscles above and below the knee. He planned to swim for two hours after the game for further conditioning.
“It felt real good,” said Mauer, a four-time All-Star and three-time American League batting champion of his first at-bat. Running to first base, however, was another story.
“It felt like I had some ankle weights on my legs,” Mauer said. “I’m just a little tired. It’s normal, going out there my first time for spring training. But overall it was good.
“I’d like to get as many at-bats as I can,” he said. “But No. 1 is to get my legs back and to get back out there and play.”
The 6-foot-7, 230-pound Pelfrey, who went 15-9 with a 3.66 ERA last season, came away impressed with Mauer’s performance.
“I thought I threw two good sliders today,” Pelfrey said. “One of them was his first at-bat. I threw a slider in, and he hit a rocker right up the middle. He’s obviously Joe Mauer for a reason. He’s pretty talented. He hit it right up the middle. I have no idea how he did it. You just have to tip your cap to him.”
Pelfrey struck out one and gave up three runs and nine hits in five innings. Twins center fielder Denard Span hit a solo homer off the right-field pole in the third inning to tie it 1-all.
“Some long innings,” Pelfrey said. “Coming into the game, I wanted to throw more fastballs. Obviously, I did that. Obviously, you look at five innings, nine hits and three runs, I didn’t really throw that many for strikes. Those are some pretty poor splits.
“I didn’t walk anybody, which is one thing that drives me nuts, especially during spring training. So that was good,” Pelfrey said. “My secondary stuff wasn’t very good today. I wanted to use the fastball.”
Mets manager Terry Collins expressed his confidence in Pelfrey.
“I want guys who really can compete,” Collins said. “Mike’s at the stage where he’s trying to do that. From what I saw last year in the first half and the second half, he’s a guy who can go out there and take charge of a game.”
As for Pelfrey’s outing, it wasn’t as bad as it looked, Collins said.
“What I like most of all is he pounded the strike zone,” Collins said. “The guys who try to hit the corners and hit the corners, and hit the corners, they don’t ever get a feel for the strike zone. Mike pounds the strike zone and continues to work on his command and hits the corners. That’s what I like.”
NOTES: Collins scratched Lucas Duda as the designated hitter because Angel Pagan arrived to the clubhouse, thinking he was on the travel squad. Collins decided to play Pagan instead and will have him stay overnight and face the Red Sox on Thursday. … Mets 3B David Wright went 1 for 3 with a strikeout. Mets SS Jose Reyes went 1 for 1 with two walks and a run scored. … Twins OF Jason Kubel went 2 for 3, upping his spring average to .469. … Twins first baseman Justin Morneau, in his third Grapefruit League game since sustaining a concussion July 7, went 0 for 3. Jason Bay, who also missed nearly the entire second half last year because of a concussion went 1 for 3 and is hitting .300 this spring. Bay reached out to Morneau for advice on how to handle concussions last summer. “Everyone’s different,” Bay said. “Everyone has different issues. I talked to him a few times and tried to compare stories. Right after it happened, I talked to him a few times. It happened to him a month before it happened to me, so I was looking for some ideas. … We had some comparison stories. We talked mostly by text message. Basically, he told me don’t let it go too far before you see somebody. He said he talked to a lot of doctors. You have to be proactive about it.”
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