Reds 6, Twins 4
Micah Owings' wildest performance of the spring probably didn't hurt his chances all that much. The right-hander gave up only one run even though his control was way off, keeping himself in line for the final spot in Cincinnati's rotation as the Reds beat the Minnesota Twins 6-4 on Thursday night. Owings allowed six hits and five walks in four innings, but only one run - on a bases-loaded walk to Denard Span. Left fielder Chris Dickerson threw out Brendan Harris at the plate, and Owings pitched out of a couple of bases-loaded threats. "I felt like it was a grind," said Owings, who threw only 44 strikes out of 82 pitches. Right-hander Homer Bailey, also competing for the fifth starter's spot, gave up eight runs and eight hits in five innings of a game against Boston Red Sox minor leaguers earlier Thursday. Owings' strong performances early in camp gave him the inside track. His performance Thursday was by far his worst. "He didn't have his normal command," manager Dusty Baker said. "I talked to the umpire and he said his ball was moving all over everywhere. He just couldn't control that movement tonight." The one bad outing probably won't hurt Owings too much, especially since he was able to limit the Twins to one run. "Throughout the season, you're going to have games where you're not going to have your stuff," Owings said. "You're not going to feel good, like tonight. But you just stay after it and realize you can get lucky like that." Ramon Hernandez, who had a disputed homer for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic, hit his first for the Reds. His solo shot with one out in the third inning was Cincinnati's first hit off right-hander Nick Blackburn. Owings, who had two game-winning hits for the Reds last season, also doubled and scored on Willy Taveras' single off Blackburn, who gave up three hits and didn't walk a batter in four innings. Blackburn led all major league rookies in innings and starts last season, but had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in the offseason. The knee has swollen during spring training, limiting his appearances against major leaguers. "Blackie was fine," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's coming right along." His two at-bats weren't very good. Blackburn struck out with the bases loaded in the second and again with two runners aboard in the fourth, helping Owings escape with only one run allowed. "We didn't want him running the bases with his knee issue, but it's kind of embarrassing to just stand there and take pitches," Gardenhire said. "What are you going to do? We needed him to face major league hitters." The Reds went up 6-1 by scoring four runs in the fifth inning off Jesse Crain. Jerry Hairston Jr. had a two-run single. Notes: Blackburn has made only three appearances against major leaguers, throwing seven innings. ... Since rejoining the Twins from the WBC, Nick Punto has gone 7-for-10 in four games. ... Reds 3B Edwin Encarnacion was out of the lineup and will miss at least one more game with a sore right shoulder that has bothered him since Saturday. A medical test found no serious injury. "I have to see him throw before I put him in there," Baker said. ... 2B Brandon Phillips was back in the lineup after missing five days with the flu.