Crain Struggles In New Role

Crain struggled on Tuesday night.

In this edition of Twins Inside Pitch, Jesse Crain struggles in the eighth inning, Torii Hunter is having his ankle taped, and much more.

The Twins added three veteran hitters over the winter to help what ailed the worst scoring lineup in the American League last year. The trio showed in their Twins debut Tuesday that they might help, but also that they shouldn't be counted on to be saviors.

The upside was that two of the Minnesota's three runs against Toronto ace Roy Halladay were driven in by designated hitter Rondell White, who batted cleanup, and third baseman Tony Batista, who batted seventh.

White, who was hitless in three at-bats, drove in the game's first run with a sacrifice fly in the first inning. Batista, who went 1-for-3, hit a seventh-inning home run.

And even hitless second baseman Luis Castillo, batting second, had a sacrifice bunt in that first inning to help put the first run into scoring position.

But the downside was the three combined to go just 1-for-9 with three strikeouts -- albeit, much of the struggles coming against Halladay.

"We're not going to judge (off one game) today," center fielder Torii Hunter said, "because Roy Halladay had a holiday."

REPLAY: The middle of the Twins batting order -- Nos. 3 through 6 -- went a combined 0-for-15 with four strikeouts in a 6-3 loss to Toronto in the season opener, offering little suggestion that much has changed since the meat in the lineup looked more like bone last year.

The Twins, who scored an American League-low 688 runs last year, took an early 1-0 lead but couldn't add on until they trailed 4-1, eventually getting a pair of solo homers from ex-Blue Jays Tony Batista and Shannon Stewart to close to within one. But the Jays put the game away on right fielder Alex Rios' two-run homer in the eighth.

Meanwhile, in a battle of past AL Cy Young Award winners -- Roy Halladay (2003) and Johan Santana (2004) -- the trends held. Halladay improved to 5-0 lifetime against the Twins with 7 2/3 strong innings, and Santana fell to 2-3 against Toronto after failing to get out of the sixth.

NOTES, QUOTES:

  • CF Torii Hunter said that with about a week left in spring training he began to have his left ankle taped because it started to bother him. It's the first time in his career he has played with an ankle taped, and he said it helped. Hunter, who broke the ankle last July and missed the final two months of the season, got an early test in Tuesday's opener, and the five-time Gold Glove winner doesn't appear to have lost a step. He tracked down a line drive deep in the right-center gap in the third inning after a long run to the wall.

  • LHP Johan Santana gave up 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings during the Twins' season opener Tuesday in Toronto -- the first time in 57 starts, dating to May 2004, he has allowed 10 hits. One of the hits was a two-run home run by Blue Jays C Bengie Molina for half the four runs Santana allowed.

    Santana is 1-2 with a 6.50 REA against Toronto since the start of last season. After a 10-3 loss against them last year, several Blue Jays said Santana was tipping his pitches. He didn't seem to have that problem against other teams, and he came back to beat the Blue Jays with seven strong innings less than two weeks later. But judging from Tuesday's results, they seem to have his number.

  • RHP Juan Rincon, who didn't pitch in an official Grapefruit League game this spring as he nursed a sore pitching elbow following winter bone-chip surgery, looked strong in his season debut Tuesday. Rincon, who at least in the short term has swapped his eighth-inning role for RHP Jesse Crain's seventh-inning role, entered Tuesday's opener with two on and two out in the sixth. After allowing an infield single, he got out of the jam and then pitched a scoreless seventh.

  • RHP Jesse Crain struggled in his first game in RHP Juan Rincon's former eighth-inning role, giving up a two-out, two-run homer to Toronto RF Alex Rios to turn a one-run game into a 6-3 game.
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