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Blackburn, Hughes Each Sharp, Twins Beat Yankees

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(credit:Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

(credit:Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

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FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Whether it was an aberration or a sign of things to come, the Minnesota Twins were happy to see their sudden power surge.

Danny Valencia and Joe Benson hit solo home runs and Mike Holliman had a three-run drive in a 5-1 victory over a New York Yankees’ split squad on Sunday. The Twins had hit just three home runs in their first nine exhibition games.

“It makes it all the more worthwhile, that’s for sure,” Valencia said. “You don’t want to feel like you’re out there taking a hundred swings with blisters all over your hands for nothing.”

While the Yankees left their starting infield back in Tampa for a game against the Phillies, they brought starter Phil Hughes as he tries to rebound from a dreadful, injury filled 2011.

He allowed one hit in three scoreless innings with one walk and one strikeout, and his velocity continues to be up over last year. Manager Joe Girardi, wanting to track Hughes closely, made the long bus ride to Fort Myers rather than stay in Tampa to watch CC Sabathia and Mariano Rivera pitch in a 3-0 win over a Philadelphia split squad.

“I thought he had everything today,” Girardi said. “I thought his fastball location was much better. I thought he threw some good changeups. Pleased, very pleased.”

Hughes was 18-8 in 2010 before back and neck injuries decimated last year.

Girardi keeps saying he won’t make any evaluations of starting pitchers until their fourth or fifth appearances. With Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda guaranteed starting slots, Hughes is competing with Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda and Freddy Garcia for the final three berths.

“It’s like saying you’re going for a job interview and the first five minutes don’t count,” Hughes said. “Obviously, you’re still going to be judged on the early results. I still want to come out early and show something.”

So does Minnesota’s offense. Beset by injuries, the Twins were last in the AL in home runs in 2011 and 13th among the 14 teams in RBIs. They finished 63-99, their second-worst record during 51 season in Minnesota.

Benson. starting because Denard Span was scratched with a stiff neck, went 2-for-3 with a fifth-inning homer off

Adam Warren. Valencia homered in the seventh against Graham Stoneburner, and Holliman connected in the eighth off Adam Miller.

“We like to see balls fly,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Get the barrel on it, see what happens.”

Twins starter Nick Blackburn gave up three hits in three scoreless innings. Blackburn, who missed time last year because of an injured forearm, had thrown three scoreless innings in “B” games.

“I kind of battled myself out there, but for my first time out against an actual lineup, I’ll take it,” Blackburn said.

Curtis Granderson, Francisco Cervelli and Nick Swisher doubled. Cervelli, the Yankees’ backup catcher, went 3-for-3 with an RBI.
(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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