Rays 1, Twins 0

Francisco Liriano is confident his 2012 season will be more

consistent than his last.

He gave signs Thursday he may be right.

The left-hander struck out five of the nine batters he faced in

in three scoreless innings but the Minnesota Twins lost 1-0 loss to

a Tampa Bay Rays split squad.

”Nothing’s bothering me right now, so it’s going to be quite

different from last year,” Liriano said.

Desmond Jennings was the only Rays player to get a hit off

Liriano and the leadoff hitter had two of Tampa Bay’s four

hits.

”I feel good. I feel good,” Jennings said. ”Just glad I’m

playing. Hopefully, I’ll get better as camp goes on.”

Liriano was feeling good, too. Last season was an up-and-down

year because of inconsistency and injury that was right in step

with an up-and-down career.

The six-year veteran, who has mixed good starts with frustrating

defeats ever since breaking through with a 12-3 record and 2.16 ERA

in 2006, went 9-10 with a 5.09 ERA last season despite throwing a

no-hitter on May 3 against the White Sox.

Liriano attributed much of the struggle to nagging injuries,

including the shoulder strain that ended his season in August.

”I battled it through the whole year,” Liriano said. ”Like

two days before spring training I got hurt, so I worked out in

Miami. I tried to battle through it the whole year; it was getting

better, but it was just a battle the whole year.”

This spring, he has focused much of his attention on locating

his fastball to add a potent second option to his deadly slider.

That work was evident Thursday.

”I’d say that’s a pretty good day – he only threw four sliders

in 34 pitches,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. ”He controlled

the game out there.”

The Rays also got quality innings from their starter,

23-year-old prospect Chris Archer. In his first spring start,

Archer gave up one hit and two walks through two scoreless

innings.

With two runners on base and none out in the first, Archer was

able to force flyballs from Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau and a

groundout from Josh Willingham to get out of the inning.

”It was nice, because I’ve never faced guys of that caliber on

a consistent basis,” Archer said. ”Facing those guys back-to-back

with runners on base, it was definitely nice to be in there and get

those guys out.”

The game’s lone run came in the top of the ninth, when Rays

infielder Hak-Ju Lee scored on Luke Hughes’ throwing error to first

base.

The only bright spot on offense for the Twins was leadoff hitter

Denard Span, who continued to have a good spring after struggling

with post-concussion symptoms through much of last year. The

outfielder went 1 for 2 and stole two bases.

”Neither team had a lot of offense to talk about,” Gardenhire

said. ”Let’s call that good pitching.”