FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Justin Morneau took a positive step forward on Wednesday, going 1-for-2 with a double and a walk in a "B" game against the Red Sox at Hammond Stadium.
Morneau, serving as a designated hitter, drew a walk against left-hander Jon Lester and doubled off left-hander Drake Britton. He said he expects to be back at first base against the Rays on Thursday, and is hoping it will help him with his timing.
"It felt good," Morneau said. "It was a good start, hopefully, is the best way to put it. The timing is starting to feel like it's starting to get there. So we'll see when I get to back-to-back days and get in there tomorrow. That's usually when the timing starts to come a little bit more. When you get time off, sometimes it's hard to find a rhythm when you're playing every other day."
Morneau said the key is adjusting to off-speed pitches, as he grounded out to second in his second at-bat on a changeup that he just missed.
"I think you need to be on time to adjust to the fastball, but to be able to adjust to the off-speed is kind of when I know I'm there," Morneau added. "The changeup on the ground ball I hit to second base, I was just out in front a little bit. But I saw it pretty good and wasn't able to wait long enough with my legs to square it up. So when that starts to come, when you're ready for a fastball but you adjust to off-speed, is when you kind of know that your timing is a lot better."
Mauer plays first base in 'B' game
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Joe Mauer saw his first action of the spring at first base in a "B" game against the Red Sox on Wednesday at Hammond Stadium.
Mauer played five innings at first without any issues, and made a nice backhanded stop in the second inning.
"It was the first time I'd been out there this year, so it was good to get out there," Mauer said. "Just comfort-wise going back to last year, I feel a lot more comfortable there than last year. It's good to get that first one, I guess. The more you play over there, more comfortable you'll be."
Mauer played in 18 games at first base last year, and is expected to see time there again this season, when he needs a break from catching. But this is the first time Mauer has seen work there during Spring Training, including under the guidance of former manager Tom Kelly, as he was thrown into the fire last year because of injuries to Justin Morneau.
"I've been getting through the drills and all that," Mauer said. "Last year, it was more of just a couple of days to get out there and do your best. So it's good to get down here to get some work in and watch Morneau and [Chris] Parmelee and work with TK [Kelly]. So it's nice to learn what I'm supposed to be doing."
The work seemed to pay off on Wednesday, as his play impressed right-hander Nick Blackburn, who started the game against Boston.
"I looked over there and was like, 'Who is that?'" Blackburn said about Mauer making a backhanded play in the second. "He's pretty athletic over there, obviously. He always makes plays. He did last year, diving all over the place."
Blackburn's sinker sharp against Red Sox
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Twins right-hander Nick Blackburn tossed two scoreless innings in a "B" game against the Red Sox on Wednesday at Hammond Stadium.
Blackburn recorded four strikeouts, including three looking, in the first inning, while allowing two hits. He said he was pleased with his sinker's movement, and has been feeling great so far in camp.
"It's pretty sharp right now," Blackburn said. "It's a good indication with the swings they were getting. There was a lot of not necessarily emergency [swings], but it was boring in on them pretty good. The small adjustments I made have really helped with more movement so far. It's been a good spring for that."
Blackburn said the biggest adjustment he made was moving from the first-base side of the rubber to the middle of the rubber. He said it helps with his deception, because it allows him to hide the ball longer against right-handers. He said the ball looks like it is coming out of their hip to right-handers, while it moves in against left-handers.
"It's something I kind of wanted to do last year but I didn't want to change in the middle of the season," Blackburn said. "I just moved over on the rubber a little bit and it's making it more consistent on each side. It's also helping me have more directional drive toward the plate inside of spinning off. I don't have any of the lateral movement I used to flatten everything out. So now that I'm going more toward the plate with all my momentum going to the plate, it's kind of helping with the down movement that I want to get."