DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Twins right-hander Phil Hughes, who is competing for the final spot in the rotation, was hit hard against the Blue Jays on Saturday, giving up four extra-base hits, including two homers, in a 13-8 loss at Dunedin Stadium.Hughes was scheduled to go three innings or 45 pitches,
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Twins right-hander Phil Hughes, who is competing for the final spot in the rotation, was hit hard against the Blue Jays on Saturday, giving up four extra-base hits, including two homers, in a 13-8 loss at Dunedin Stadium.
Hughes was scheduled to go three innings or 45 pitches, and lasted 2 1/3 frames with 28 of his 47 offerings going for strikes. His fastball mostly sat at around 90 mph after touching 91 mph several times in his first outing on Monday against the Cardinals. He surrendered five hits, including a triple to Curtis Granderson, a double to Randal Grichuk and homers to Kevin Pillar and Yangervis Solarte on a breezy day that saw both teams combine for five homers.
"I felt good and that's the biggest thing," Hughes said. "Obviously, I'm not happy with the results. But I'll take the positive that I felt good. I located some pitches OK. I really got to mix everything in there and I was happy with that. I just need to clean up the command a little bit. I don't want to focus on the results too much, but as we progress, I want to avoid innings like that where I give up runs."
Hughes, who is coming off a second surgery to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome, is competing with fellow veteran Anibal Sanchez and youngster Adalberto Mejia for the rotation's last spot, as the club is expected to open the year with four starters behind Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi and Kyle Gibson, with Ervin Santana sidelined until at least mid-April after undergoing middle right finger surgery.
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Twins manager Paul Molitor said before the game that he won't rule out Hughes possibly opening in long relief, which is a role he served in last year after struggling early in the season as a starter. Sanchez also pitched in long relief with the Tigers last year, although Mejia will either start with the Twins or at Triple-A Rochester.
"We're going to have some flexibility with how we want to shape up the bullpen if we go with four [starters]," Molitor said. "Where he is as part of that depends on the rotation mix and where he's at [health-wise]. But I think we're a little ahead on that."
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Hughes knows he's competing for a spot in the rotation, but said he's not focusing on a decision that is still weeks away from being made.
"I haven't given it any thought," Hughes said. "All of my focus this spring has been from the rubber to the plate. I haven't looked ahead to the schedule or anything. I'm just trying to stay healthy and show I'm improving and show good stuff out there."
• Right-hander Thomas Pressly is considered highly likely to make the team and is out of Minor League options, but he helped his cause by throwing 1 2/3 scoreless innings, including escaping a jam in the second after Hughes departed with one out.
• Right-hander Tyler Duffey is getting stretched out to start, but saw his chances of making the rotation hurt by the additions of Odorizzi and Sanchez. He could still make the team in long relief, but struggled on Saturday, allowing four runs on four hits, including a three-run homer to Russell Martin in the fifth. But he settled down to throw 1 2/3 scoreless frames after his shaky fifth.
• Zack Granite, who is competing for a bench spot as a fourth outfielder, went 1-for-4 and is batting .133 during the spring. Kennys Vargas, whose spot on the roster is in jeopardy after the signing of Logan Morrison, went 1-for-3 with a double and is hitting .267 this spring.
• Catcher Mitch Garver is likely to make his return on Tuesday after tweaking his right knee during a rundown on Wednesday. Garver has returned to baseball activities and participated in a full workout without any issues on Saturday.
• Shortstop prospect Nick Gordon (mild right wrist strain) is expected to return to the lineup on Sunday. Non-roster infielder Brock Stassi (back spasms) is also scheduled to return on Sunday.
• Right-hander Berrios is set to make his second start of the spring against the Pirates on Sunday at 12:05 p.m. CT at Hammond Stadium. Watch the game on MLB.TV. Other pitchers scheduled to see action include Sanchez, Fernando Rodney, Zach Duke, Addison Reed, Alan Busenitz and John Curtiss.
Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter **@RhettBollinger** and **Facebook**.