FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Danny Valencia kept showing he might be Minnesota’s long-term solution at third base.
Valencia doubled and scored in the first inning and later walked, helping the Twins to a 3-0 win Sunday over the Baltimore Orioles.
“I’ve said that about 10 times, and we’ll wait and see,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “That’s why we drafted him. That’s why we’ve tried to sell him as being our long-term solution at third base. He definitely has the ability to do that.”
Since 2005, the Twins have had five different players starting at third base on opening day. The last player to hold down the spot for multiple seasons was Corey Koskie in 2000-02.
“It’s very important to me, and it’s important for the team to have someone there,” Valencia said. “I’d be happy to fill that role. Hopefully good things happen and we win.”
Valencia spent time in the offseason working out with another third baseman who, like him, went to the University of Miami — New York’s Alex Rodriguez.
“It was a good experience,” he said. “It was very informative. It was fun, and it’s nice to see a guy you grew up watching work hard.”
“Wow,” Valencia said. “That’s nice to be mentioned with those guys. It was a great rookie year. I can’t think of any way it could have been better unless we could have gotten deeper into the playoffs.”
Gardenhire said Valencia has impressed him with his desire to learn.
“He’s a very confident guy, probably overconfident,” Gardenhire said. “There’s nothing wrong with that as long as you continue to learn and listen and pay attention. Danny has done that. He has handled himself a lot better than most people would have expected. That says a lot about him.”
Valencia hit .311 in 85 games last season after getting called up from Triple-A Rochester on June 3. That ranks ahead of Koskie for second place for rookie hitters with a minimum of 300 at-bats. Tony Oliva hit .323 in 1964.
Brian Duensing, already part of Twins manager Ron Gardenhire’s rotation, gave up two hits in three innings.
Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie allowed two runs and four hits in three innings.
Guthrie gave up a third-inning RBI single to Twins second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka that scored shortstop Alexi Casilla. Nishioka also tripled in the fifth inning.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter expressed confidence in Guthrie, who was 11-14 with a 3.38 ERA last season.
“He does everything to give his team a chance to win,” Showalter said. “I don’t see any different guy than I saw last year.”
Showalter said he would like to see more from his offense. His team went 4-for-31.
“We didn’t swing the bats very well,” he said. “We had some opportunities — getting to first and second with nobody out — and didn’t get a threat. You say, ‘That’s just spring.’ Well, you don’t like it.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)