Spring Training Quick Hits: March 24

Lohse looks like a new pitcher this spring.

In our latest edition of Spring Training Quick Hits, Kyle Lohse looks like a new man, Michael Cuddyer continues to rehab, Darrell May could be the odd man out, and much more.

Right-hander Kyle Lohse is quietly putting together one of the best spring trainings of his career and one of the best among pitchers in camp this year.

The Twins' No. 4 starter, who won a $3.95 million salary in arbitration last month, pitched five shutout innings Thursday against the potent Red Sox, allowing just four hits and no walks while striking out two.

"Watching the way he's throwing the ball, he's backed off and pitched, not thrown," pitching coach Rick Anderson said. "He's more letting the pitches work for him and letting the ball move for him and locating."

Lohse, who was 9-13 each of the past two seasons and has struggled with inconsistency throughout his career, improved to 3-0 this spring and lowered his ERA to 2.12 in five starts. He has walked only two batters in 17 innings.

NOTES, QUOTES:

  • RHP Juan Rincon, after a successful bullpen session Wednesday, is scheduled to face live hitters in batting practice both Friday and Sunday in anticipation of his first exhibition-game appearance next week. If he can get two or three appearances in games, it's expected he can avoid opening the season on the disabled list. Rincon, the team's top setup reliever, has been hampered all spring by soreness in the muscles surrounding his pitching elbow. He had bone chips removed from the elbow over the winter.

  • OF Michael Cuddyer is trying to be optimistic that he can return from his oblique strain in time to be ready for the season opener, but the Twins are not going to rush his return to the lineup. Cuddyer, who likely would be the Opening Day right fielder if healthy, was hitting .500 this spring when he hurt the ribcage muscle Monday. "It is frustrating because I've been feeling good at the plate and it's getting closer to the start of the season," Cuddyer said. "We only have (10) games left (this spring). It's frustrating, but you can't do anything about it but just try to get back to full strength."

  • 1B Justin Morneau is one of several players recently to try shaded contact lenses that act essentially as sunglasses. His contacts make his eyes look red, and he seems to be comfortable wearing them regularly in games. C Joe Mauer experimented with some similar, yellow-tinted contacts last year but didn't use them in games. "It's just like wearing sunglasses," Morneau said. "It cuts down on the glare."

  • INF Luis Rodriguez, who went 2-for-4 with a big RBI single late in Thursday's 4-3 victory over Boston, has impressed manager Ron Gardenhire in camp this spring, despite an apparent numbers game working against him making the Opening Day roster. The oblique injury to OF Michael Cuddyer and the quadriceps injury to PH/OF Ruben Sierra could provide enough wiggle room on the roster to open a sliver of a shot for Rodriguez. "Like I've said all along, I'm really going to try to find a way to keep Luis Rodriguez on the ballclub," Gardenhire said.

  • LHP Darrell May, who earlier this spring looked like a safe bet to win a job in the bullpen, had another poor showing Thursday. He pitched the eighth inning against Boston and allowed a hard single to CF Coco Crisp and a home run to INF Mark Loretta, boosting his spring ERA to 6.75. If May and LHP Dennys Reyes continue to struggle, it only figures to intensify the debate over whether to keep rookie LHP Francisco Liriano in the big-league bullpen instead of sending him to the minors to start every fifth day if he doesn't win a rotation spot out of camp.
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