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Twins open spring training competition with drubbing of Reds

Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2002

The Minnesota Twins could not be more excited to play a spring training game in February.

Survivors of a trying offseason in which baseball owners attempted to eliminate them, the Twins wound up playing the first major league spring training game of the year Wednesday.

They scored two runs in their first at-bat and beat the Cincinnati Reds 13-0 in Fort Myers, Fla.

''It was a good feeling,'' new Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. ''I doubted that I'd be very emotional, but heading into the game I could feel the butterflies a little bit. It was exciting. A long time coming with all that stuff we went through.''

Kurt Abbott hit a two-run homer, Todd Sears drove in three runs with two hits and Brad Radke started with two perfect innings as everything seemed to go right for the Twins.

Even their first-round draft pick, 18-year-old catcher Joe Mauer, ripped a single up the middle in his first spring at-bat in the eighth.

''It was nice to get up there and see some pitching,'' Mauer said. ''It was a fun game.''

Minnesota pounded 20 hits against the Reds, who left nearly all of their regulars at their camp in Sarasota. Ken Griffey Jr. missed the Reds' workout because of a viral infection in his stomach and will be out a couple days.

''It turned out to be a pretty good day,'' Gardenhire said. ''We have something to prove, and not because of contraction. We finished in second place last year, and people doubt that we can do better. These players are on a mission to prove they can play, that last year wasn't a fluke.''

Montreal second baseman Jose Vidro led the Expos with a .319 batting average last season, yet he still thinks he has something to prove, too.

''I was disappointed with last year,'' Vidro said. ''I want to be in the lineup every day and last season brought back bad memories of 1998 and 1997 when I was on the bench a lot,'' he said.

He hit just 15 homers in 486 at-bats -- down from 24 in 2000 -- in a season interrupted by injuries. In August he was hit in the head by a pitch, which gave him a mild concussion.

''The injury that really pushed me back was the one when I got hit on the head,'' said Vidro, who also missed time with a sore left elbow. ''I was really scared when I came back because I had bad memories of the incident. I was so afraid. I didn't know what would happen if I got head on the head again, ''he added.

''The fear is all gone right now,'' he assured. ''I'm thinking about playing 162 games and I think I can hit 30 home runs.'''

The San Diego Padres are shuffling two All-Stars in order to accommodate a rookie.

In order to let Sean Burroughs play third base, Phil Nevin has moved across the infield to first base and fellow All-Star Ryan Klesko has been bumped to right field.

''He's impressive,'' Nevin said. ''You can tell just from the way he goes about his business. He's not in awe of anything out here. He grew up around it, but it seems like he wouldn't be bothered, anyway. He carries himself with confidence, and he goes about his stuff the right way.''

In other games, it was San Diego 3, Anaheim 2; Pittsburgh 13, Manatee Community College 7; and Detroit 5, Florida Southern 4.

Elsewhere, David Wells, coming off a season cut short by back surgery, is progressing ahead of schedule.

The New York Yankees left-hander reported no problems after a bullpen session in Tampa, Fla., and remains on target to make his first game appearance since July on Monday.

''If something happens, it happens,'' Wells said. ''Every day is a better day. I don't anticipate anything happening because I'm feeling good.''

Veteran left-hander Kent Mercker took the mound for the first time since last spring. He was the last cut by the Boston Red Sox a year ago and did not play in the 2001 season.

Mercker pitched the first inning of the intrasquad game for the Visitors. He allowed a one-out double to Brent Butler and a walk to Todd Zeile but escaped unscathed.

''I threw all right,'' he said. ''It's been a year since I've actually seen a live hitter, but it felt good. I gave up a hit but left him out there. Right now, how I feel physically is the main thing, and I feel great.''

Indians right-hander Jake Westbrook had arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow at Lutheran Medical Center in Cleveland.

Westbrook, expected to battle for the fifth spot in the Indians' starting rotation, was operated on Tuesday.

''From what I heard, everything went just fine,'' manager Charlie Manuel said. ''Hopefully, he should be throwing again sometime in mid-May, but it will be around the first of June before he is ready to help us.''

The 24-year-old reported soreness in his right elbow after one day of throwing last week. He will return to spring training next week to begin a rehabilitation program. He is expected to begin throwing in six weeks.



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