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Nathan sharp as Twins edge Rays

March 5, 2011
From AP wire reports

For Manny Ramirez, the request was hardly a veteran spring training move. He wanted to play, though, so he asked Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon if he could take the trip.

Joe Nathan pitched a perfect inning for Minnesota in the closer's second appearance in his comeback from major elbow surgery, and the Twins beat an eager Ramirez and the Rays 5-4 Friday at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers.

Ramirez was not originally on the travel roster for the game, but Maddon obliged when Ramirez asked to be added. He started in left field and hit a two-out double off the left-field wall in the first, the only hit allowed by Twins starter Kevin Slowey over three scoreless innings.

Ramirez, 38, declined an interview request. He is playing for his fifth team, entering his 19th major league season. This marked his first return to Fort Myers since playing for the Boston Red Sox in 2008. Maddon said he's counting on Ramirez to split time as the designated hitter and in left field, with the goal of keeping him healthy for the full season.

"Manny's been wonderful," Maddon said. "He's been very entertaining. He's working very hard, offensively and defensively. He's working on his baserunning. He's working on his whole game right now. I couldn't ask for more."

Likewise, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire could not have asked for more from Nathan so far. The right-hander, who had ligament replacement surgery on his elbow last March, got two flyouts and struck out one in the fifth inning. He hasn't allowed a run in two appearances.

"It really started to feel like my timing is getting better," Nathan said. "It's getting more comfortable. I'm having positive outings. I threw fewer pitches today. The ones I did throw, I felt good about."

The scoreboard radar gun at Hammond Stadium, not a reliable source of speed, showed Nathan's fastball hitting 95 mph. Nathan said his velocity has returned, however, and he's grateful for that.

Evan Longoria had an RBI single for the Rays, and B.J. Upton was 1-for-3 with a run scored.

Matt Tolbert scored the go-ahead run in the eighth after entering the game as a pinch-runner. Tolbert is competing for a utility spot on Minnesota's bench. Also for the Twins, Jason Kubel drove in three runs, and Denard Span was 2-for-3 with a run scored.

Mets 4, Marlins 3: Chris Young allowed an unearned run in three innings, helping the New York Mets beat Florida.

Young gave up two hits, struck out two and walked none, throwing 28 of 51 pitches for strikes. He has not allowed an earned run during five innings in spring training.

Javier Vazquez made his first spring training appearance for the Marlins and allowed one run and three hits in three innings. He struck out three and walked none.



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