Hughes pleased with first spring start

Ace fires two scoreless innings against host Red Sox

Hughes pleased with first spring start

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Phil Hughes had an uneventful Grapefruit League debut in a 7-4 win over the Red Sox at JetBlue Park on Wednesday, and that's exactly what he wanted.

Hughes, who couldn't make it out of the second inning in his first Spring Training start last year in the same ballpark, fared much better this time. The right-hander tossed two scoreless frames and allowed one hit, but he faced the minimum after getting Pablo Sandoval to hit into a double play in the second.

"I felt good," Hughes said. "Neither of the innings were really tough on me results-wise. I wasn't laboring or anything like that. I think I threw 20 in the game and 15 in the 'pen. So it's always nice when you have to throw extra and you're not taken out of the game in the second inning."

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Hughes, who lost 15 pounds this offseason, said he felt strong and mixed in all four of his pitches, including his changeup. It's something pitching coach Neil Allen has him working on this spring, and Twins manager Paul Molitor was happy to see him use the pitch in a game.

Hughes did start to incorporate the pitch last year, throwing it 4.8 percent of the time, but the Twins would like to see him use it more to keep hitters off-balance, because he's around the strike zone so much with his fastball and cutter.

"The ball was up a little bit the first six or seven pitches, but what I was encouraged about was that he was economical," Molitor said. "He threw four changeups today, and Neil is trying to get him to understand that's part of what he needs to do."

Worth noting

Miguel Sano made his debut in right field, but no balls were hit to him in his five innings of work. But Molitor said he still watched as much as he could of Sano, who also drew three walks at the plate. He'll get a test on Thursday, as he's set to play in his first night game in right field against the Red Sox at Hammond Stadium.

"I took some time to watch him from the dugout to see how he was reacting to things like fly balls and things like that," Molitor said. "The feedback I'm getting from the coaches is they're pleased with the work he's putting in and what his reaction time is."

• A pair of top prospects contributed offensively for the Twins, as Byron Buxton had an RBI single and Jorge Polanco had a double and a two-run homer. Buxton is the No. 2 overall prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, while Polanco is ranked No. 97.

• Reliever Michael Tonkin, who is out of Minor League options and is competing for a spot in the bullpen, struggled a bit in his debut, allowing two runs on three hits in one inning.

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