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Vying for rotation, Anibal scuffles vs. Bucs

MLB.com @RhettBollinger

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Right-hander Anibal Sanchez, competing for the final spot in the rotation, scuffled against the Pirates in relief on Sunday, giving up six runs on five hits over two-plus innings, including a three-run homer to catcher Elias Diaz in the sixth inning of a 9-3 loss.

Sanchez was hurt by some bad luck early, giving up a pair of ground-ball singles and a bloop RBI single to center, but the homer to Diaz was hit hard to left into the wind at Hammond Stadium. Homers have been an issue for Sanchez in recent years, as he gave up 26 last season and 85 over the last three years, which ranks as the fourth-most in baseball over that span.

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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Right-hander Anibal Sanchez, competing for the final spot in the rotation, scuffled against the Pirates in relief on Sunday, giving up six runs on five hits over two-plus innings, including a three-run homer to catcher Elias Diaz in the sixth inning of a 9-3 loss.

Sanchez was hurt by some bad luck early, giving up a pair of ground-ball singles and a bloop RBI single to center, but the homer to Diaz was hit hard to left into the wind at Hammond Stadium. Homers have been an issue for Sanchez in recent years, as he gave up 26 last season and 85 over the last three years, which ranks as the fourth-most in baseball over that span.

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"The line is not going to look good and they hit some balls hard," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "But he gets some really funny swings, and then they get some good swings. He was a little inconsistent today."

Sanchez settled down for a 1-2-3 seventh, but gave up a single and a walk in the eighth, and was pulled from the game before both inherited runners scored. Sanchez, though, did strike out four, showing his offspeed can be effective, but the homer also happened to come on a slider.

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"I wasn't sure if we wanted to put him back out there for a third inning," Molitor said. "But [pitching coach] Garvin [Alston] wanted him back out there so he'd at least get up a third time. But he got a couple baserunners on and we had to get him out of there."

Sanchez is competing with Phil Hughes and Adalberto Mejia for a rotation spot, but both have struggled recently as well. Mejia gave up two runs, including a long homer, over three innings against the Cardinals on Thursday, while Hughes surrendered four runs on five hits, including two homers, in 2 1/3 innings against the Blue Jays on Saturday.

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Camp battles

• Reliever John Curtiss, who has an outside shot at earning a spot in the bullpen, didn't help his cause with two walks and a run-scoring wild pitch with the bases loaded, but rebounded by inducing a 4-6-3 double play and getting a strikeout to end the eighth inning.

• Reliever Alan Busenitz, who is coming off a strong rookie season and is competing for a bullpen spot, struggled and couldn't complete the ninth inning, giving up four hits and a run while recording just one out. He also dealt with some blood from his fingernail, but it wasn't a blister.

Injury updates

• Catcher Jason Castro was scratched from Sunday's lineup because of the migraine he sustained on Friday. Mitch Garver, who had been out since Wednesday with a tweaked right knee, started in Castro's place. Garver wasn't expected to return until Tuesday, but was ready to play after resuming baseball activities on Friday and Saturday. Castro is expected to return on Tuesday.

• Shortstop prospect Nick Gordon, who had been sidelined with a mild right wrist strain sustained on Tuesday, returned to action on Sunday, replacing Brian Dozier at second base. Dozier went 2-for-3 with two doubles.

• Right-hander Ervin Santana remains scheduled to leave for New York on Monday to have his cast and sutures removed after undergoing surgery on his right middle finger on Feb. 6. Santana will get a better idea of when he'll be able to start throwing again, and find out more about the timeline for his return, which isn't expected to be until mid-April or early May.

Video: Twins CEO Derek Falvey on Santana's injury

Up next

• Right-hander Kyle Gibson is set to make his second start of the spring on Monday against the Phillies in Clearwater at 12:05 p.m. CT. Other pitchers scheduled to see action include prospects Stephen Gonsalves, Fernando Romero, Aaron Slegers and Zack Littell, as well as Rule 5 Draft right-hander Tyler Kinley. Watch the game live on MLB.TV or MLB Network.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

Minnesota Twins, Anibal Sanchez