FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) —Jon Lester worked on something he hopes he doesn’t have to spend much time doing during the regular season: pitching out of jams.
Joe Mauer made his first spring training start at first base for a Minnesota Twins split squad in a 2-1 win over the Boston Red Sox on Friday night.
Lester walked one and hit two batters while giving up two runs and five hits in four innings. He struck out two in his fourth spring training start.
“You’ve got to grind it out when you’re not feeling that great, whether it’s physically or mechanically,” said Lester, who had been slated to pitch five innings but was pulled after four because he already had thrown 81 pitches, 47 strikes.
“It’s a good thing to work on, pitching out of jams. You might as well practice it here. That’s obviously ideal,” Lester said. “I don’t want all of those baserunners. It was just one of those nights. I wanted to go that extra inning. I’ll hopefully get there next time. Hopefully, it’ll be a little bit smoother than this one.”
The night went smoothly for Mauer, who played 18 games at first base last season while Justin Morneau dealt with post-concussion problems. This marks the first time the three-time American League batting champion has had to practice playing first base during the preseason.
Morneau went 0 for 4 as the designated hitter.
Mauer said working with Twins guest instructors Tom Kelly and Paul Molitor among others has helped him understand the nuances of playing the corner position.
“To be able to get some work has helped a lot,” said Mauer, who was unsure how much he would have to leave his preferred position of catcher. “I don’t know. I just want to be more prepared for whatever they need me to do. If they need me over there a lot, I’ll do it. Last year, the more I played over there, the more comfortable I felt.”
Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis went 1 for 2 with an RBI single.
Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire left the team for the weekend in order to attend the funeral of his father-in-law. Bench coach Scott Ullger ran the team’s split squad liked Mauer’s work at first base.
“He does good,” Ullger said. “Very good. Athletes are athletes. I’m sure he could play shortstop if he wanted to. He has made some nice plays over there. He’s got the footwork down whereas last year, we just threw him out there.
“Obviously, he’s our catcher, but we like to have that versatility, and we like to have his bat in the lineup other than at DH,” he said.
Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz hit a flyball that soared almost 420 feet to the triangle in deep center field, where Twins outfield prospect Joe Benson caught it. Benson went 2 for 4 with an RBI and called the catch one of the toughest of his career.
“I’d say it’s up there,” Benson said. “I was running full speed.”
Twins catcher Drew Butera, trying to make the team as Mauer’s backup, had a hit and an RBI.
Andrew Miller, recovered from a shoulder setback and still among several candidates vying for the fifth spot in the Red Sox’s rotation, struck out two and walked one with no hits in one inning.
“I feel good right now,” Miller said. “You get a little worried any time you get hurt. From the day I threw that bullpen and didn’t feel good, every day it got better pretty quickly. It sounds like three days off and then multiple innings. So I still have some time to build up. Now they’re throwing five innings. The goal for me is to be with the big league club than anything. I threw 26 pitches the first time out and today was around 15. I’ve got a ways to go.”
NOTES: The Red Sox made their first cuts of camp Friday, reassigning RHPs Tony Pena Jr., Chorye Spoone and Alex Wilson and OF Juan Carlos Linares to minor league camp. OF Che-Hsuan Lin and 3B Will Middlebrooks were optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket. LHP Drake Britton and 2B Oscar Tejada were optioned to Double-A Portland. … Red Sox LF Carl Crawford returned to swinging in the cage while recovering from a sore wrist. He is not expected to break camp with the team in time for opening day. We’re totally controlling it,” Valentine said. “I’ve had too many meetings on it so far. That’s how many I’ve had. But we’re going to keep controlling it. It’s a designed program.” … Boston RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka, in his comeback from Tommy John surgery last June, threw off the mound Friday. Like Crawford, he is not expected to break camp with the team. “Dice-K today looked OK,” Valentine said. “He threw 20 pitches without a hitter in there, and they were all good. I thought the first seven with a hitter in there were not very good, and the last eight I thought he threw nicely. I was happy with the progress.”
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