FORT MYERS, Fla. — Through the first week of spring training games, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire had been relatively happy with how his pitchers had looked.
That changed in a hurry Wednesday night.
Minnesota’s collection of pitchers was hit hard and hit often by the Baltimore Orioles, surrendering 12 hits in an 11-5 loss at Hammond Stadium. It didn’t help that the Twins’ defense was far from sharp behind the pitchers, yielding four unearned runs in a five-run sixth inning.
"We hadn’t seen that too much," Gardenhire said following the loss.
Right-hander Mike Pelfrey made his second start of the spring and went 2 1/3 innings. As he continued to focus on working at a quicker pace, Pelfrey cruised through two scoreless innings before allowing a run in the third on an RBI double by Quintin Berry. That was the last batter Pelfrey faced in his second outing of the spring. Berry later came around to score, with Pelfrey charged with his second run of the night.
"I think the big thing tonight is I didn’t throw enough strikes," Pelfrey said. "I didn’t hit (Kurt) Suzuki’s glove too often. I was kind of all over the place. It’s early. Physically, I felt fine."
Relievers Jared Burton and Glen Perkins both gave up runs out of the bullpen. Burton served up a three-run home run to catcher Johnny Monell in the third inning after he replaced Pelfrey, while Perkins’ lone run came in the fourth inning on a fielder’s choice.
Left-hander Scott Diamond, battling for a spot in the Twins’ starting rotation, was on the wrong end of Baltimore’s five-run sixth inning. The Twins’ defense certainly didn’t do Diamond any favors. Catcher Josmil Pinto was charged with a passed ball that allowed Ryan Flaherty to advance to third. Flaherty later scored on an error by second baseman Jorge Polanco as he overthrew shortstop Eduardo Escobar on what would have been an inning-ending double play.
The inning continued to spiral out of control after Steve Pearce hit a two-run double to left to push Baltimore’s lead to 11-3. Diamond also walked a pair of batters in the inning, which didn’t help his own cause.
"We didn’t catch the ball," Gardenhire said. "Our pitcher walked a couple of guys, and then all hell breaks loose. It just got a little ugly out there."
The one bright spot for the Twins’ pitching staff Wednesday was right-hander Michael Tonkin, who threw two scoreless innings of relief. Tonkin struck out two batters and did not allow a baserunner in the seventh or eighth innings.
Tonkin made his major league debut last year with the Twins and allowed just one earned run in 11 1/3 innings. More performances like Wednesday’s outing could help Tonkin make a case to land on the 25-man roster.
"Tonkin threw the living [heck] out of the ball," Gardenhire said. "It was nice to see."
Twins confirm they made offer to Santana: Minnesota assistant general manager Rob Antony confirmed Wednesday that the Twins did indeed extend an offer to pitcher Johan Santana, who ultimately signed with the Orioles on Tuesday.
The 34-year-old Santana, who spent his first eight major league seasons in Minnesota and won the American League Cy Young Award in 2004 and 2006, is trying to come back from major shoulder surgery. He’s expected to miss at least the first month of the regular season, but that didn’t deter several teams — including the Twins — from expressing interest in the left-hander.
"We had conversations, but they had to make their decision on what they were looking for and what they wanted to do," Antony said. "We had some interest and expressed our interest. We talked to him. He clearly got more money, I’ll tell you that much."
Santana’s deal with the Orioles will reportedly pay him a guaranteed $3 million for the 2014 season if he makes Baltimore’s 40-man roster and can earn more if he finds his way on the 25-man roster.
Antony said the likely scenario for Santana will be to spend the month of March getting in shape while using April as a spring training of sorts before pitching in the minors in May. Santana’s contract reportedly has an opt-out clause if he’s not on the major league roster by May 30, but Antony said that part of the negotiations wasn’t a hangup for the Twins.
"We had good conversations with his agent," Antony said. "As with any free agent, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t."
Santana did not pitch at all in the majors in 2013, and he also missed the 2011 season. He threw a no-hitter with the Mets in 2012 and went 6-9 with a 4.85 ERA that season, his last in the majors.
Guerrier expected to debut March 11: Twins reliever Matt Guerrier is fighting for a roster spot this spring, but he still hasn’t pitched in a game this spring after having arm surgery late last year.
That should change next week, as the right-hander will likely make his spring debut on March 11 against Tampa Bay. Antony said Guerrier threw live batting practice on Tuesday and will likely throw a few bullpen sessions before he’s ready to pitch in a game.
Guerrier, 35, spent the 2004-10 seasons with the Twins before pitching for the Dodgers and Cubs. He’s one of several former Twins hoping to break camp with the big league club. Antony doesn’t think Guerrier’s late start will necessarily hurt his chances of making the 25-man roster.
"If he starts on the 11th, he’ll have about 17, 18 days," Antony said. "He should have plenty of opportunity to get into games."
Guerrier was traded from the Dodgers to the Cubs last July. In 49 combined relief appearance in 2013, he had a 4.01 ERA with a WHIP of 1.406.