Blue Jays 3 Twins 0
DUNEDIN, Fla. — Jesse Litsch made about as strong a case as he could for a spot in the Toronto Blue Jays’ rotation.
Litsch struck out seven in 5 1-3 scoreless innings and the Blue Jays beat the Minnesota Twins 3-0 Sunday.
“Everything was sharp today, everything felt good, my arm felt great, body felt great,” Litsch said after outpitching Scott Baker. “It’s a game. You’re going to have bad ones, you’re going to have good ones. It’s a matter of just staying focused and doing your job when you’re out there.”
In his last start, Litsch gave up nine hits and four runs over 3 1/2 innings against Philadelphia. Manager John Farrell was impressed with his bounce-back effort Sunday.
“Hopefully (Litsch) he has one or two more just like this,” Farrell said. “It makes our decision extremely difficult. That means everyone’s throwing the ball like they can.”
Litsch gave up three hits and did not walk a batter. He is competing with Jo-Jo Reyes and Kyle Drabek for two spots in the rotation. Toronto decided Marc Rzepczynski will start the season in the bullpen.
“Any time you get better odds in life, it’s a great thing,” Litsch said. “I’m out here doing my job. We’re out here battling. We’ve got 10 days left (before opening day). You look at that as a positive going in to the season.”
Rzepczynski was given the chance to start the season in the minors but Rzepczynski chose a relief role.
“He’ll work out of the bullpen the rest of camp,” manager John Farrell said. “What (Rzepczynski) did in a couple of outings coming out of the bullpen last year, I think his stuff plays out better in shorter stints.”
Baker, a candidate for the Twins’ fifth starting spot, struck out six and allowed a run on three hits in four innings. He was troubled by tendinitis in 2010, underwent off-season surgery and still is experiencing discomfort.
“We’re just trying to gauge that he’s healthy and getting out there,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said, “and right now it looks like he’s feeling good and the ball’s coming out good.
“He’ll make two or three pitches and you’re like ’What is he doing?”’ Gardenhire said. “And then all of a sudden, boom, boom, boom — some of the nastiest pitches in the world.”
In the first inning, Jose Bautista doubled down the left field line and Adam Lind singled to centre, a soft liner that grazed leaping shortstop Alexi Casilla for a run.
Toronto added its final two runs in the eighth off Jeff Manship, who fanned the first two batters, then gave up a single to Adam Loewen and Travis Snider’s home run to right.
NOTES: Drabek pitches today in a Blue Jays minor league game and Reyes starts Wednesday against the Yankees in place of Brandon Morrow, who will work his regular turn in a minor league game. Blue Jays outfielder Anthony Gose and catcher Travis d’Arnaud were sent to minor league camp. Toronto, off Monday, starts Ricky Romero on Tuesday against Cliff Lee and Philadelphia. Blue Jays second baseman Aaron Hill, sidelined all spring with a strained right thigh muscle, is expected to play Tuesday. Minnesota’s Brian Duensing starts today against Pittsburgh.