Spring Training Roundup: Twins’ Royce Lewis hits grand slam in win over Red Sox

Minnesota Twins' Royce Lewis reacts after hitting a two-run home run during the first inning in Game 1 of an AL wild-card baseball playoff series against the Toronto Blue Jays Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023, in Minneapolis. (Abbie Parr/AP)

It didn’t take long into spring training for Royce Lewis to remember what it feels like to hit a grand slam.

He did it four times last year. And in his first opportunity with the bases loaded in spring training, he did it again on Friday.

The young Minnesota Twins slugger went deep in the third inning of a 5-3 win over the Boston Red Sox. Lewis’ homer came off Boston minor league pitcher Jordan DiValerio on a 3-0 pitch that he decided not to let go by.

“I think these guys are just like, ‘What the heck, man, I don’t know what’s going on,’” Lewis told reporters in Fort Myers, Florida. “I said the same thing. I really don’t (know). I just enjoy it. Take advantage of the opportunities when they come because they’ll go away soon. You just take advantage while you get them.”

Lewis has five total grand slams in the first 66 games of his major league career. He hit one early in the 2022 season before a torn ACL in his right knee that cost him almost an entire calendar year. Last year, Lewis hit four slams in just 12 plate appearances with the bases loaded, setting a new franchise record. The 24-year-old did it despite being limited to just 58 games and 217 at-bats.

“Well, you almost laugh to yourself a little bit that you’re in the situation again,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli told reporters. “Even without the homer, you’re still sitting there like, ‘My god, it feels like we load the bases for this guy a lot,’ and he just keeps coming through, over and over again. It’s a good time. It’s fun. I hope we’re talking about it again in April, May and June.”

BACK TO WORK

Yankees ace Gerrit Cole gave up two runs and four hits over two innings against the Toronto Blue Jays in his first start since winning the 2023 AL Cy Young Award.

The right-hander retired his first two batters on three pitches before allowing three consecutive hits, including a two-run homer by Daniel Vogelbach. Cole struck out one during a 39-pitch outing that included 26 strikes.

“It was pretty good,” he said. “It was good to be out there again, and stuff was pretty good.”

Cole is 51-23 with a 3.08 ERA in four seasons with the Yankees after going 15-4 with a 2.63 ERA in 33 starts last year. He has a $324 million, nine-year deal through 2028 and can opt out at the end of this season, which would force the Yankees to decide whether to add a guaranteed $36 million salary for 2029.

New York first baseman Anthony Rizzo, shut down in early September last year due to post-concussion syndrome, had a grand slam and solo homer in two at-bats.

“Everything that I need to check off has been really good,” Rizzo said.

Juan Soto, acquired from San Diego, went 2 for 2 and hit his second spring homer.

“I knew I would enjoy watching him, but I love watching him,” Cole said.

BATTERED AROUND

Yankees left-hander Carlos Rodón allowed four homers to minor leaguers over three innings during a simulated game with the wind blowing out in Florida.

“I don’t want to give up homers, but I’m glad I give it up to our guys,” Rodón said. “Makes them feel good about themselves.”

Josh Breaux, Agustin Ramirez, Ben Rice and Jose Rojas went deep. After Rojas’ homer in the final inning, Rodón struck out three of his final four batters, including top prospect Spencer Jones twice.

“I had some sequences there at the end,” Rodón said. “Got some work on curveballs and work on the cutter, so it’s good.”

While the outing wasn’t great, Rodon feels healthy and that’s most important after an injury-marred 2023 where he went 3-8 with a 6.85 ERA in 14 starts.

HELLO, JULIO

Seattle centre fielder Julio Rodríguez is scheduled to make his Cactus League debut on Saturday when the Mariners face Oakland. Rodríguez had been limited for about a week due to some left-hand soreness.

The good news didn’t stop there for Seattle. Top reliever Matt Brash is not expected to need surgery after having inflammation in his right elbow. Seattle general manager Justin Hollander told reporters in Peoria, Arizona, that after several exams, Brash was told he could resume throwing next week. He will still need a full build-up and won’t be ready for the start of the regular season.

Brash appeared in a big league-high 78 games last season and had a 3.06 ERA with 107 strikeouts in just 70 2/3 innings.

Seattle also hopes to see infielder Luis Urías in spring training games next week after he was slowed by a shoulder issue.

OLD FRIEND

The Yankees will get to see an old friend in a couple of weeks after 41-year-old Robinson Canó signed with Mexico’s Diablos Rojos. Canó spent 17 seasons in the majors, most of that time with the Yankees and Seattle Mariners.

New York is set to play exhibition games against at the Diablos Rojos on March 24-25.

BUMPS AND BRUISES

Reigning NL MVP Ronald Acuña Jr. was scratched from Atlanta’s lineup on Friday for precautionary reasons due to right knee soreness. … Houston RHP Justin Verlander is scheduled to throw a bullpen on Sunday as he works his way back from a shoulder issue that led to a delayed arrival to spring training. Verlander threw a bullpen on Tuesday and could progress to facing hitters if his next outing goes well. … Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash told reporters that infielder Yu Chang’s oblique injury will sideline him for six to eight weeks.

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