DUNEDIN, Fla. (AP) — Jose Bautista hit his third home run of the spring for the Toronto Blue Jays in a 4-3 victory Saturday over the Minnesota Twins, who got three scoreless innings from newcomer Phil Hughes.
After spending his first seven seasons with the New York Yankees, Hughes signed a $24 million, three-year contract with Minnesota in the offseason. He gave up one hit, walked one and struck out two.
The right-hander missed most of spring training with a back injury last year and struggled mightily in the regular season, going 4-14 with a 5.19 ERA with the Yankees.
Hughes said being able to participate in a full spring has given him a confidence boost.
“You never want to struggle at any point,” he said. “I think coming in off the year I had and to get off on a pretty good note is big. But again, it’s still spring training and once the season starts that’s the biggest thing, and I want to get out of the gates going well.”
Adam Lind was 2 for 2 with two doubles for the Blue Jays. Melky Cabrera added an RBI single and Edwin Encarnacion scored a run.
Bautista connected in the fourth off Twins closer Glen Perkins.
Byron Buxton, rated the No. 1 prospect in baseball, hit a two-run homer off Toronto starter Drew Hutchison in the third.
Hutchison struck out five, including three straight in the second, and walked one in three innings.
Twins: Hughes threw 38 pitches but only two or three changeups because they weren’t very effective.
“It wasn’t good,” he said. “I threw one first pitch that was a bad ball and then I think I threw one on the plate. As the pitch counts increase, you give yourself a little bit more availability to work on some things. When I’m going three innings, sometimes the concentration goes on making a pitch and getting a guy out and before you know it, maybe you haven’t thrown as many (specific pitches).”
Blue Jays: Hutchison, a candidate for the fifth spot in the rotation, felt good after working with catcher Dioner Navarro for the first time in a game.
Hutchison said he and Navarro worked before the spring to build chemistry and it has paid off well.
Navarro signed an $8 million, two-year deal with Toronto in the offseason after spending last year with the Chicago Cubs.
“I live here in the offseason and so does he, so I was working out at the complex with him. So I got to know him a little bit, develop a little bit of a relationship,” Hutchison said. “He caught my first bullpen, I think, so I had a pretty good idea. We’ve talked a lot. It was really good to work with him today.”
Twins: Manager Ron Gardenhire said outfielder Aaron Hicks, who has been out with a minor elbow injury, could play Tuesday against Tampa Bay.
Blue Jays: Colby Rasmus resumed on-field workouts after missing the past six games with a stiff neck.
Toronto manager John Gibbons said Rasmus spent Saturday morning playing catch in the outfield, hitting in the batting cages and off a tee. Gibbons expects the center fielder to continue working out at the team’s training facility Sunday before returning to the lineup Tuesday in a split-squad game against the Canadian Junior National Team.
“He should be full-go after that,” Gibbons said. “It’s a good, big day. He feels fine coming out of this.”
Right-handed reliever Dustin McGowan was expected to pitch two or three innings against the Twins, but was scratched before the game after getting a stomach virus.
Multiple media outlets reported Saturday that the Blue Jays are favored to land Ervin Santana, the top remaining free-agent starting pitcher.
ESPN first reported that Santana, who was 9-10 with a 3.24 ERA for Kansas City last season, was offered a one-year, $14 million contract by Toronto. However, the report said the right-hander was holding off on signing with the hope of getting a better deal from another team.
Blue Jays officials did not comment on any of the reports, but right-hander Esmil Rogers, a teammate of Santana’s during winter ball in the Dominican Republic who is vying for the fifth spot in the rotation, said the 31-year-old is a “great guy” and would not make it harder for him to make the team.
“I’m here to help the team win. It doesn’t matter where I’m going to be,” Rogers said. “I’m looking for the opportunity to start, but I can’t make that decision. The office is going to make that decision. I can’t do (anything). I just try to make my pitches and get people out to help the team.”
Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen, who has not pitched this spring because of shoulder inflammation, took a positive step by throwing on flat ground.
Gibbons said “it won’t be long,” but the right-hander will have to throw a couple more times before he appears in a game.
“I would think maybe next weekend he might get in a game, or maybe the following week,” Gibbons said. “As long as he’s got a couple weeks left, he should be fine.”
Janssen saved 34 games for Toronto last season and has just four blown saves in his past 60 opportunities.
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