FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — As news spread that Joe Mauer and his wife are expecting twins in August, the All-Star catcher had two hits with an RBI, a walk and two runs scored to lead the Minnesota Twins over the Baltimore Orioles 7-1 on Thursday.
Mauer said he and his family have known for a while about his impending fatherhood. He used the word “blessing” several times in describing his emotions to the media.
“It was unbelievable,” said Mauer, who wants to wait until his children are born to discover what sex they are. “What a blessing. I’m just really excited and happy. I couldn’t really believe it at first. It’s still kind of a shock. It’s kind of hitting me now that we’re starting to tell people. We found out around the holidays. It’s kind of been a blur. There’s been so much excitement, telling family and friends.”
Mauer said the twins are expected at the end of August. By then, Mauer’s team could be much improved from last season’s 66-96 finish should the Twins extend their hot spring training starts into the regular season.
First baseman Justin Morneau, who rarely played on back-to-back days last spring while recovering from post-concussion symptoms, played for the fifth consecutive game Thursday and went 2 for 3 with a two-run double. Morneau plans on representing Canada in the World Baseball Classic.
“I usually don’t worry too much about what I do during spring training, but it’s so nice to be able to go out there and play and not worrying about restrictions or limits,” said Morneau, who hit .267 with 19 home runs and 77 RBIs last season.
“My body feels good. I’ve had a pretty good routine going. I’ve been able to do everything I’ve wanted to do. It’s pretty refreshing and nice to come in here and not worry about not being able to do certain things.”
Josh Willingham boosted his spring average to .727 with a pair of hits for the Twins. Willingham also drove in a run, drew a walk and scored twice. Willingham hit a career-best 35 home runs last season, his first as a Twin and his first hitting during most games between Mauer and Morneau in the lineup.
“Joe’s always on base,” Willingham said. “So that’s always a good thing. It’s always good to have people on base. And with Morneau hitting behind me, that gives me good protection. So I like that spot. I like that spot for me.”
Willingham said he wasn’t thinking too much about his hot start. The 34-year-old said he has had a variety of spring performances over the years.
“Sometimes really good,” he said. “Sometimes really bad. Sometimes in the middle. You never know. I don’t really put a whole lot of stock into it. But it’s always really good to see the ball well, especially this early.”
Darin Mastroianni, competing for the starting center field job with the Twins, went 2 for 3 with a run scored.
Orioles starter Jair Jurrjens, a non-roster invitee, gave up three walks, three runs — two earned — on two hits in one inning.
“My timing today was way off,” Jurrjens said. “I wasn’t finishing the ball, it was starting a ball and then finishing a ball. It wasn’t looking like a strike and then finishing a ball.
“I think having been in bad habits for a couple of years. I just got to figure out how to get the good habits back, the good timing. Get that feel back.”
NOTES: Cuban defector Hector Urrutia, who the Orioles signed to a $778,500 contract last July, has arrived in the U.S. Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said Urrutia, who has obtained a work visa, will report to the team’s minor league complex in Sarasota for a physical. The 26-year-old outfielder was stuck in Haiti since July. … RHP Jason Hammel will get his first start of the spring on Friday against Pittsburgh RHP James McDonald.
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