Escape act by Graham impresses Molitor

Twins prospect keeps game tied despite entering with bases loaded and no outs

Escape act by Graham impresses Molitor

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- When Twins right-hander J.R. Graham entered Tuesday's game against the Blue Jays, the Rule 5 pick faced a perilous situation. With the game tied at 1 in the seventh inning, Toronto had the bases loaded with no outs, and lefty Brian Duensing had been forced to exit the game after being hit with a comebacker.

But Graham did not fold. The 25-year-old worked Minnesota out of the jam to preserve the tie in a game the Twins would go on to win, 6-5, and perhaps moved himself a step closer to making the club's Opening Day roster.

"I love that," Twins manager Paul Molitor said of how Graham handled himself. "That kind of got my blood going in the right direction."

Graham started his outing by whiffing Dayan Viciedo for the first out. He then got Dalton Pompey to hit a weak grounder up the middle, allowing second baseman Doug Bernier to step on the bag and throw to first for an inning-ending double play.

"We've seen Graham in different situations, starting innings, different things," Molitor said. "But that was good. He came in, made pitches, got the slider down where he needed to get the strikeout, and he gets the ground ball right to the second-base bag to get out of the inning."

The eighth didn't go quite as well for Graham, who got two outs and gave up three singles while being charged with two runs (one earned). But he was hurt by an error, and Molitor still was pleased with how Graham threw the ball and how he didn't "let his guard down" after the previous inning.

Graham is rated by MLBPipeline.com as the Twins' 17th-best prospect after the club selected him from the Braves in the Rule 5 Draft in December. Minnesota will have to keep him on its roster all season or offer him back to Atlanta. In six outings this spring, Graham has allowed one earned run on nine hits over nine innings, with two walks and six strikeouts.

As for Duensing, Molitor expects him to be fine -- other than some soreness -- after he was struck in the quad by a ball off the bat of Devon Travis. Molitor just wanted to get Duensing out of the game before the leg got stiff.

Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.