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Spring Training Report: March 6

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After watching my hometown get blanketed with several inches of snow on Monday and Tuesday, I finally said, "Screw it, I need to get out of here." So I hopped on a plane and flew to Florida.

OK, it wasn't quite that spontaneous, but I am down here in Ft. Myers, and making several trips to the ballpark this week, so I figured I would share some of my observations. On Wednesday, I had the chance to take in the tilt between the Twins and Puerto Rico's World Baseball Classic squad at Hammond Stadium, which ended in an 8-7 loss. Here are a few notes I thought I'd pass along:

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* If you've been following this site or my writing, you may be aware that I'm a huge fan of Twins prospect Aaron Hicks. So naturally, he was one of the players I was most excited to see down here. Hicks was in the starting lineup on Wednesday, batting leadoff, and he did not disappoint. In his first at-bat, he took a couple pitches from Puerto Rico starter Giancarlo Alvarado beforClick image for larger version. 

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ID:	3420e drilling one over the right field fence for his second home run of the spring. He walked and singled in his next two plate appearances, finishing 2-for-2 on the day, and is now batting .375 in Grapefruit League action.

Hicks is doing everything he needs to secure a spot on the Opening Day roster, but as Star Tribune beat writer Phil Miller pointed out when I was chatting with him outside the batting cages, rookies who are competing for a big-league job have a tendency to tighten up as Opening Day approaches. We'll have to see whether the Twins Daily No. 3 prospect can keep it up over the next few weeks.

* Unfortunately, Hicks was the only player in the Twins lineup on this particular day who has a chance to actually make the starting lineup. You think Ron Gardenhire's getaway day lineups are bad? For this exhibition match-up, his No. 3 hitter was Mark Sobolewski and his cleanup man was Jeff Clement.

Consequentially, there isn't too much to report about the performance of the offense, although they did manage to scrape together seven runs thanks in large part to bouts of wildness from the Puerto Rico pitching staff.

* Beyond Hicks, two other players who appeared on our Top 10 prospects list were in action for the opposing team Wednesday. Eddie Rosario didn't start, but he replaced Irving Falu at second base early in the game. Right-hander J.O. Berrios came on in relief and pitched the third inning.

Rosario didn't have a great game offensively. He flied out to the outfield twice, then singled against Alex Burnett in his third at-bat but was quickly picked off at first base. The 20-year-old did convert on his defensive chances, and turned a nice double play.

Berrios looked great. His fastball clocked in the low 90s but showed plenty of life. He threw strikes and worked around a Hicks single to complete a shutout frame. He may be the most impressive pitcher on Puerto Rico's staff, and he's 18.

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ID:	3419Vance Worley was the Twins starter. He didn't look especially sharp in the first inning, and it probably didn't help that he had to face a lineup featuring Angel Pagan, Carlos Beltran, Alex Rios and Yadier Molina among its first five hitters.

Fortunately, Worley settled in and eventually lasted into the fourth before reaching his pitch limit. He relied on a low-90s fastball and mixed in an effective slider, rarely missing bats but jamming several hitters.

The right-hander is one of the few projected members of the Twins rotation with whom I have a good idea of what to expect. He's not going to blow people away but he has solid stuff and will throw strikes. As long as he can stay healthy, he'll be a quality mid-rotation arm.

* Reporters in Ft. Myers had been talking about the struggles of the Twins bullpen early on, and that trend continued Wednesday. Jared Burton hit the first batter he faced with a pitch and then gave up a long home run to something called Pedro Valdes. Burnett looked terrible, yielding five hits and two walks while recording just four outs.

In fact, the only Twins reliever who had a remotely effective outing was Anthony Slama. Go figure.

* The Twins have a pair of split-squad games scheduled for Thursday, and I'll be in attendance for the match-up at Hammond against the Red Sox. Kevin Correia is slated to start, and several legitimate major-leaguers figure to be in the lineup this time, so I'm sure I'll have plenty more notes to share afterwards. Stay tuned.
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