FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Joe Mauer isn’t known for his pull-side power, but that could change this season.
The three-time AL batting champion connected for his first home run of the spring and the Minnesota Twins beat the Philadelphia Phillies 7-1 Saturday.
Mauer hit a two-run drive to right field. He has spent extra time working off a tee with hitting coach Tom Brunansky, often focusing on getting the lefty-hitting Mauer to pull the ball hard to right.
Mauer hasn’t hit more than 11 homers in a season since 2009, when he hit 28 and was the AL MVP.
Brunansky, in fact, called Mauer’s homer before he walked to the plate to face Phillies right-hander Jerome Williams. When the count went to 2-0, Brunansky turned to Twins manager Paul Molitor and said, “It’s going to be this pitch.”
After Mauer connected, Molitor looked at his hitting coach and said, “Bruno, you’re too good.”
Defensive shifts seemed to rob Mauer of more than his share of hits on line drives to the opposite field last season, when he struggled to a career-worst .277 batting average. Driving more balls to right field would help keep opponents honest, Molitor said.
Twins starter Ervin Santana pitched six innings, allowing an earned run and five hits, with no walks while striking out two. His signature slider wasn’t behaving, but he was still able to slice his spring ERA to 2.57.
Twins outfielder Shane Robinson, in camp on a minor league deal, went 3 for 4 and appears poised to win a reserve spot with Saturday’s demotions of young outfielders Aaron Hicks and Eddie Rosario.
Williams gave up six runs on nine hits and two walks in four innings.
Phillies: Williams suggested he was trying to be too fine with his pitches, which Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said is “resulting in a lot of pitches being thrown.”
Williams threw 95 pitches against the Twins, in part due to shaky defense behind him (two errors and at least one other misplay).
“He’s not as sharp as he wants to be,” Sandberg said.
Twins: Santana, who signed a four-year, $55 million contract in December, threw 80 pitches. He added a pickoff of ex-Twin Ben Revere in the third inning.
“So far, so good,” Santana said.
Phillies: OF Domonic Brown (left Achilles tendinitis) remains out. He last played on March 19.
Twins: C Josmil Pinto didn’t pass the concussion protocol test that was administered on Friday and must retake the test Sunday before he can be cleared to return to games. Pinto suffered his head injury on March 21, when Baltimore’s Adam Jones hit him three times with the follow-through of his swing.
Phillies: RHP Zach Eflin, acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in an offseason trade for SS Jimmy Rollins, will start Monday at the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Twins: RHP Ricky Nolasco will start Sunday at the Baltimore Orioles. Mike Pelfrey, who lost a three-way competition to LHP Tommy Milone for the final rotation spot, will work out of the bullpen.
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