Milone looks strong in first spring outing

Lefty ready for new start, competing for Twins' fifth rotation spot

Milone looks strong in first spring outing

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Before left-hander Tommy Milone took the mound against the Rays in his Grapefruit League debut on Friday, Twins general manager Terry Ryan admitted Milone was one of the players he was most anxious to see this spring.

Milone, 28, was acquired by the Twins from the A's before last year's Trade Deadline, but he struggled during his time in Minnesota. The lefty, who had a 3.55 ERA in 16 starts with Oakland last year before the trade, had a 7.06 ERA in six appearances with the Twins. Milone, though, was pitching with what was later found out to be a benign tumor in his neck, but he's now healthy and competing for the fifth spot in the rotation.

He looked more like his old self on Friday, as he was sharp against Tampa Bay, allowing just one hit in two scoreless innings in the Twins' 2-1 loss. He threw 21 pitches with 15 going for strikes.

"I wanted to come in here last year and be the pitcher they wanted to me to be, and it didn't really work out that way," Milone said. "So to come in, especially this first outing, and throw up some zeros and attack the zone, is really comforting. It's a good start and a good one to build off."

Milone threw only fastballs and changeups in his first outing, and he said he plans to mix in curveballs in his next start. He can feel the difference in his health this year compared to late last season, but is hesitant to use it as an excuse for his struggles.

"It's a new start," Milone said. "Coming in being healthy, having a bunch of energy and getting ready for the season feels really good. Compared to last year with the grind of the season, it feels good to have a fresh start."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.