DUNEDIN, Fla. (AP) — Justin Morneau is finding his hitting touch early in preparation for the World Baseball Classic.
Morneau had two hits, including an RBI double, and the Minnesota Twins beat the Toronto Blue Jays 8-4 on Tuesday.
Morneau and teammate Joe Mauer, both taking part in next month’s WBC, made the 2½-hour trip from Fort Myers.
“Just to get my legs underneath me,” Morneau said. “There’s a big difference between playing five innings and playing nine. Knowing we’re going to start earlier with the WBC, crank it up a little bit earlier.”
Mauer singled and walked twice. He scored on Morneau’s third-inning RBI double.
Morneau, who will be playing for Canada in the WBC, received a nice cheer when he was introduced during the announcement of pregame lineups. The first baseman hit a three-run double in Minnesota’s 5-4 victory over Pittsburgh on Monday.
Both starting pitchers, Toronto’s Ricky Romero and the Twins’ Mike Pelfrey lasted just 1 2-3 innings in their spring training debuts.
Romero allowed two runs — both coming on Joe Benson’s second-inning homer — and two hits. The left-hander had an arthroscopic procedure during the offseason to clean up his left elbow, and also received platelet-rich plasma treatments to both knees to help the recovery of his quadriceps tendinitis.
“I’m going to use this spring to work on my sinker,” Romero said. “I think that’s basically about 90 percent of what we threw, maybe 95. I’m just trying to get that pitch back and get it under control.”
Romero said his percentage of sinkers thrown last year decreased. He went 9-14 with a 5.77 ERA in 2012, and left his final start of the season on Sept. 30 after three innings due to an injury to his left leg.
Pelfrey gave up three runs and five hits. The right-hander made only three starts for the New York Mets in 2012, a season cut short by elbow ligament-replacement surgery on May 1.
Adam Lind hit a two-run homer off Pelfrey during a three-run first.
Before the game, Toronto manager John Gibbons said a decision on whether J.P. Arencibia will catch knuckleballer R.A. Dickey this season will be made after the pair return from the WBC.
“When they come back, we’ve got to made a decision one way or the other,” Gibbons said. “You don’t want to let this linger. If he’s the guy, or it’s one of the other guys, that individual, he’s got to work with him the rest of the way.”
Arencibia caught Dickey in Monday’s game against Boston. Other candidates include Dickey’s former teammates on the Mets — Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas — and Henry Blanco.
Dickey is scheduled to start the Blue Jays regular-season opener against Cleveland on April 2.
“Whoever is going to be his catcher is going to start opening day, regardless,” Gibbons said. “That’s the right way to do it.”
NOTES: Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen is long tossing on flat ground to build arm strength. Janssen, who finished with 22 saves last season, had surgery in November to address lingering shoulder soreness. … Morneau said he received a text recently from Cincinnati 1B Joey Votto, a likely WBC teammate. Votto, who hurt his knee last year, said in the message that everything is going good. “We expect to have him there, which will be obviously huge,” Morneau said. “He’s probably the best left-handed hitter in the game right now, so to have him on our team makes a huge difference in our lineup.” … Twins 3B Trevor Plouffe (sore right calf) was back in the lineup and had a third-inning RBI single.
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