PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. (AP) - The Minnesota Twins pitched well and swung the bats pretty good, too. They didn't fare quite as well, though, against the pesky bees at Charlotte Sports Park.
Nick Blackburn pitched three perfect innings, Chris Parmelee hit a solo homer and Jair Fernandez had a hit after being stung by a bee while drinking Gatorade in the dugout before a 6-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
``Other than Fernandez getting stung in the mouth, everything went really good,' manager Ron Gardenhire said. ``We had to pull the stinger out of the inside of his mouth. The trainers did it with tweezers. ... It got us off on the right foot. A rally sting.'
Blackburn hasn't allowed a run or walked a batter in five innings this spring. He teamed with Matt Capps and Pat Neshek to hold the Rays hitless until Sean Rodriguez doubled leading off the sixth against Jeff Manship.
Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine had another tough outing. After allowing five homers while facing just 11 batters in an appearance against Baltimore, the right-hander who's slated to be Tampa Bay's long reliever yielded four runs and four hits in two innings against the Twins.
Through two starts, Sonnanstine has given up 10 runs (nine earned), 10 hits, walked one and struck out three in four innings.
``A little bit of a rough one statistically, but I've got to be honest with you. That's probably one of the last things I'm worried about, spring training statistics,' Sonnanstine said.
``It was definitely awkward trying to think about mechanics and get somebody out at the same time. It's a learning process. We got through it. I think it was extremely awkward for me, but I think I'm better for it.'
Gardenhire said Fernandez was stung by the bee just before the game began. He entered as a defensive replacement in the sixth, then singled off Chris Bootcheck in the seventh.
``There's bees everywhere,' Gardenhire said. ``He actually went to get a drink of Gatorade. He didn't look, and it was up in the big Gatorade spout. He poured it, it went in and the bee stung him in the mouth. ... We're getting ready to hit, and everybody's over surrounding Fernando watching the trainer.'
Parmelee hit his homer off R.J. Swindle in the third. Ben Revere, Jason Kubel, Danny Valencia and Matt Brown also drove in runs for the Twins.
``We threw the ball good. Blackie was fantastic ... and guys banged the ball around good,' Gardenhire said.
Blackburn, 10-12 with a 5.42 ERA in 28 appearances last season, pitched two scoreless innings against Boston in his spring debut. He struck out two while facing the minimum nine batters in three innings against the Rays.
The right-hander was particularly pleased with the movement on his sinker.
``When it's working it's got late movement, and I think that's what was going on,' Blackburn said. ``They were just kind of getting it off the end of the bat or just kind of jamming themselves on it.'
While competition is ongoing for at least one opening in Minnesota's rotation, Blackburn definitely appears to be in Gardenhire's plans.
``I'd say Blackie's in the rotation. ... I like what we're seeing,' the manager said.
The Associated Press News Service
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