By WILL GRAVES
AP Sports Writer
SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) — It doesn’t matter if it’s February or September, a couple of innings just to get the arm loose or a big-time start in a pennant race, Kevin Correia doesn’t want to come out of the game.
It’s why the Minnesota Twins veteran right-hander found himself grinding during Saturday’s Grapefruit League opener against the Baltimore Orioles. Two hits, a sacrifice fly and a walk in the second inning had Correia working a little longer than expected in his debut with the Twins.
Sensing he was about to get pulled, Correia did his best to keep manager Ron Gardenhire in the dugout.
“I just got on the rubber as quick as I can and try and try to throw another pitch before they can get out there,” Correia said with a smile.
Correia managed to get Chris Dickerson to ground to second to end the threat, a fortunate development since Gardenhire admitted Dickerson would have been Correia’s last batter of the day no matter how it turned out.
It wasn’t sparkling, but hey, there’s still well over a month until opening day.
“I’ve had terrible spring trainings, great spring trainings, mediocre spring trainings and they really don’t have much of a bearing on what your numbers are going to be during the season,” Correia said. “You just want to end spring training confident in what you’re doing.”
Correia ended up allowing the one run on two hits in Baltimore’s 5-3 victory. He’ll get one more start in before taking some time off next week to help his wife give birth to their third child back in San Diego.
Gardenhire knows there’s a lot on Correia’s mind. It’s why he was hardly bothered it took the 2011 All-Star 35 pitches to get through nine batters. The combination of family duties and trying to fit into a new environment can be a lot to handle. Correia signed with Minnesota in December after spending two years with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The manager sensed Correia may have been a little more amped up than usual for February.
“That’s normal,” Gardenhire said. “You overthrow the ball a little bit, the ball stays up more. I’ll be anxious to see the next outing and where the ball goes the next time and as we go along.”
Barring disaster, Correia is considered a lock to be in the starting rotation. It’s not quite the same for Baltimore’s Zach Britton. He missed all of last spring while dealing with a shoulder issue and ended up changing his offseason program to focus on strengthening the muscles around the joint.
Locked into what appears to be a camp-long battle with a host of others to be Baltimore’s fifth starter, Britton allowed two hits in his one inning of work. Not perfect, but it’s a start.
“I feel easier,” Britton said. “I feel nice and easy going through my warmups. I don’t feel like I’m overdoing it. You have time to build yourself up to it (in spring training) before going at it full bore.”
Britton went 5-3 with a 5.07 ERA in 11 starts last year, a significant drop-off from his rookie season in 2011, when he led the team with 11 wins.
Considered a key part of Baltimore’s future at one point, now Britton is simply trying to find a spot in the present. Having a little extra time this spring thanks to the World Baseball Classic isn’t a bad thing.
“You’re kind of pacing yourself a little bit more,” Britton said.
NOTES: Minnesota LF Josh Willingham had two hits, including a two-run homer … Baltimore 2B Brian Roberts, trying to come back from a series of injuries that have derailed his career, went 0 for 2 before leaving the ballpark early to attend a friend’s wedding … Baltimore non-roster invitee Trayvon Robinson broke a 3-3 tie in the eighth with a two-run homer off Minnesota’s Tyler Robertson.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)