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Twins set to begin bounceback year down the street

Pelfrey starts as club's Grapefruit League slate opens in Fort Myers vs. Red Sox

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- After 11 days of workouts at the Lee County Sports Complex, the Twins are ready for Grapefruit League action.

The Twins open Spring Training down the road in Fort Myers against the Red Sox on Friday in a 12:05 p.m. CT start at JetBlue Park in a game that can be heard live on Gameday Audio.

Right-hander Mike Pelfrey will take the mound opposite Red Sox right-hander Anthony Ranaudo. Other pitchers on the list to throw for the Twins include Samuel Deduno, Brian Duensing, Casey Fien, Caleb Thielbar, Sean Gilmartin, Matt Hoffman and Aaron Thompson.

Pelfrey, who signed a two-year, $11 million contract this offseason to remain with the Twins after posting a 5.19 ERA in 29 starts last year, said he's excited to get into game action.

"It'll be fun," said Pelfrey, who is expected to throw two innings. "I know a lot of us pitchers, our arm strength isn't where it needs to be yet, but it'll be good to face hitters from another team and start to see some reactions and go out there and work on some things."

Pelfrey is also looking forward to being healthy this year, as he was coming off Tommy John surgery last year, and he felt it still affected his command. He believes he's better than his ERA indicated last year and is ready for a fresh start.

"Hopefully there's a lot less thinking on the mound," Pelfrey said. "I have some more certainty, and so hopefully the games will speed up a little more too. I think if you look at the innings and the ERA -- both of them were career worsts -- I don't think it's a good indication of what I can do. So I'm excited to go out there and definitely have a better year."

Other Twins regulars expected to see action include catcher Chris Herrmann, second baseman Brian Dozier, third baseman Trevor Plouffe and outfielders Oswaldo Arcia and Alex Presley. Notable non-roster invites scheduled to make the trip include outfielder/designated hitter Jason Kubel and infielder Jason Bartlett. First baseman Joe Mauer, left fielder Josh Willingham and catcher Kurt Suzuki were among the regulars not making the trip to JetBlue Park.

Several prospects are also making the trip, including Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco, Danny Santana, Max Kepler and Kennys Vargas, and Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he's excited to see them all play this spring.

"I'm evaluating, yes, but really I want to watch them like a fan because really I haven't had that opportunity," Gardenhire said. "I've watched them in Spring Training down the street a little bit in the past, but more than anything else, I just want to watch how they handle themselves and what they do. I know they have tools. I've read it 1,000 different times."

The Twins are also set to host their home opener at renovated Hammond Stadium on Saturday in a rematch against the Red Sox at 12:05 p.m. CT, which will be aired on MLB.TV and Fox Sports North. Their schedule this spring includes 31 games, with 16 at home and 15 on the road. All 16 games at Hammond Stadium will be televised by MLB.TV and Fox Sports North.

It leads into the start of the regular season, with the Twins opening on the road against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on March 31. With the signings of Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes and Pelfrey, Gardenhire is hoping the Twins can put the struggles of the last three seasons behind them.

"I sure hope so," Gardenhire said. "I'm not saying we hit rock bottom last year, because you can always lose more, but it felt like rock bottom. I think everybody involved -- myself, my coaches, the fans, the press -- didn't feel very good. I hope that was as low as you want to go. We felt pretty bad about ourselves. So we definitely had better be better than that. I believe we will be. I'm pretty confident about that. I'm excited about it, to tell you the truth."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger.

Minnesota Twins