FORT MYERS, Fla. – Jamey Carroll's bat woke up Sunday after a sluggish start.
Pittsburgh did not get a hit until Brandon Boggs singled in the eighth off non-roster invitee Luis Perdomo, the fourth of five Twins pitchers. Carroll has been just about as quiet at the plate: After leaving the Los Angeles Dodgers and signing with Minnesota as a free agent, Carroll had started spring training 1 for 23 (.043).
"I couldn't tell you the numbers, but I knew that I only had one hit, so I don't know how many at-bats, but obviously you want to play well and do as good as you can regardless of how early," Carroll said. "I'm just thankful to be able to kind of contribute a little bit today."
Carroll has never had more than five home runs or 36 RBIs in nine full seasons as a regular starter in the majors. But he batted better than .290 each of the last two seasons for the Dodgers, making his slow start for the Twins all the more agonizing.
"You get frustrated," Carroll said. "You want to contribute, especially coming to a new team. You want to play well, and I think it's just matter of just still trying to relax a little bit and let it come."
Francisco Liriano pitched five hitless innings, struck out six and walked one. Aside from giving up four runs in one inning in a loss Tuesday to the Blue Jays, Liriano has not surrendered a run through his 12 other innings. He has struck out 18 and walked two.
Liriano, who went 9-10 with a 5.08 ERA last year despite pitching a perfect game against the White Sox, has been encouraged by his results.
"Limiting walks, trying to go deeper in games, throw less pitches per batter and trying to throw first-pitch pitches for strikes," he aid. "I hope they swing early like they were today. And I'm locating my fastball better than last year, too."
Trevor Plouffe, vying for a spot in the Twins' outfield, and Joe Benson each had two hits, while Brian Dozier homered.
Both of Carroll's hits came against starter Charlie Morton, who gave up five runs and seven hits in three innings.
"You get on base, you run around a little bit, it gets you in the flow of the game and keeps you a little bit energized," Carroll said.
Morton had his best season last year, going 10-10 with a 3.89 ERA after compiling an 11-29 record the previous three years. He had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip during the offseason, but said that wasn't the cause of the trouble Sunday.
"It's hard to assess an outing like that, because really what went wrong was usually what makes things go well for me, which is getting ground balls," Morton said. "Honestly, I felt like I came out of that outing and thought, What would I change about it?"