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Mejia shows grit in pressure situations

Lefty wiggled out of two jams Saturday vs. Orioles as he battles for starting spot
Special to MLB.com

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Should left-hander Adalberto Mejia be successful as a starting pitcher in the regular season, he will have to figure out how to pitch out of pressure-filled situations. On Saturday, he gave a glimpse of how he plans to do so.

After giving up a two-out double to Manny Machado, Mejia kept his cool and forced Adam Jones to fly out and end the first inning.

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Should left-hander Adalberto Mejia be successful as a starting pitcher in the regular season, he will have to figure out how to pitch out of pressure-filled situations. On Saturday, he gave a glimpse of how he plans to do so.

After giving up a two-out double to Manny Machado, Mejia kept his cool and forced Adam Jones to fly out and end the first inning.

Twins' Spring Training information

Then in the second, Mejia gave up a walk to Trey Mancini and a single to Mark Trumbo, but he responded by getting Craig Gentry to ground into a double play before inducing a groundout by Joey Rickard.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"Today, I concentrated on throwing my sinker," Mejia said through an interpreter after Saturday's 1-1 tie against the Orioles. "I threw my sinker a lot, and there was a lot of ground balls today."

In all, Mejia's day lasted two shutout innings, during which he gave up a pair of hits and a walk while throwing 31 total pitches (21 strikes). A noticeably leaner Mejia was happy with the result.

"I feel strong," Mejia said. "It felt good to come out there for the first time this spring. I worked hard this offseason and it paid off today."

After Mejia exited, Fernando Romero threw two perfect innings with three strikeouts. Tom Hackimer, meanwhile, came in a bases-loaded situation with two outs in the fifth inning and fanned Jonathan Schoop. An inning later, Taylor Rogers pitched himself into a similar jam but struck out Rickard to keep Baltimore off the scoreboard.

Video: MIN@DET: Mejia fans Jones to end the bottom 2nd

Twins manager Paul Molitor has hinted that he could utilize a four-man rotation early in the season. With Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson and Jake Odorizzi figuring to be the only locks, potential starters include Anibal Sanchez, Aaron Slegers and Phil Hughes in addition to Mejia.

That doesn't begin to address how things will shake out when the team eventually transitions into a traditional five-man unit, though injured right-hander Ervin Santana figures to return in late April or early May.

"I think [Mejia] understands there's a five-man rotation competition that he should feel a part of," Molitor said. "I think we saw things at times that gets your attention in terms of competing against some pretty good lineups."

Mejia was in a similar situation last year, when he beat out Berrios for a rotation spot at the end of camp. Molitor figures that having a year under his belt would help Mejia this spring, as well.

"Being over here and knowing the routine that we go through in the spring, he's got to feel better about it," Molitor said. "We just have to see how the roster plays out and how many position players we carry."

Video: TOR@MIN: Mejia whiffs Morales to start the 2nd

For his part, Mejia said he will bring the same mentality and approach to the table this year as he did last spring, which is to take things one step at a time.

"The biggest thing I learned last year was to focus inning by inning and pitch by pitch," Mejia said. "Just calm down and execute."

In 21 starts for Minnesota in 2017, Mejia went 4-7 and posted a 4.50 ERA with 85 strikeouts in 98 innings.

Greg Zeck is a contributor to MLB.com

Minnesota Twins, Adalberto Mejia