Nicasio outduels Gibson as Bucs blank Twins

Nicasio outduels Gibson as Bucs blank Twins

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Right-hander Juan Nicasio continued his impressive spring by throwing five scoreless frames to help lead the Pirates to a 2-0 win over the Twins on Monday at Hammond Stadium.

Nicasio has yet to allow a run in 15 innings this spring, giving up 10 hits and five walks while striking out 24. He scattered five hits and two walks against the Twins with eight strikeouts. He's now struck out 18 in nine innings over his two outings.

Nicasio, who signed a one-year deal worth $3 million in the offseason, was expected to open the year in a long relief role, but he's pitched his way into competing for a rotation spot.

Right-hander Kyle Gibson started for the Twins, surrendering one unearned run on three hits and two walks in 4 1/3 innings. Gibson, who is lined up to be Minnesota's No. 2 starter, has also pitched well with a 2.31 ERA in four Grapefruit League outings.

"I think it was a little bit better location today," Gibson said. "I think it was more about location than movement. I don't know how many offspeed pitches I threw today, but it was a lot. So it was a better mix overall."

The lone run of the game came in the third and was keyed by a throwing error from third baseman Eduardo Nunez with two outs. With first and third, David Freese hit a grounder to Nunez, who airmailed the throw to second base to allow a run to score.

Reliever Neftali Feliz also threw two scoreless frames for the Pirates, allowing one hit and striking out one.

Twins closer Glen Perkins also threw a scoreless seventh with two strikeouts, and has yet to allow a run this spring. Fellow reliever Casey Fien tossed a 1-2-3 eighth.

Up next for the Pirates: After their final off-day Tuesday, the Pirates will return to McKechnie Field on Wednesday to face the Orioles at 1:05 p.m. ET. Left-hander Jeff Locke, officially competing for a rotation spot with Ryan Vogelsong and Nicasio, will start for Pittsburgh. Closer Mark Melancon and left-hander Cory Luebke are also scheduled to pitch.

Up next for the Twins: The Twins have split-squad action on Tuesday, as they host the Orioles at 12:05 p.m. CT at Hammond Stadium, and also travel up to Clearwater to face the Phillies at 12:05 p.m. CT. Left-hander Logan Darnell, competing for a spot in the bullpen, gets the start at home, while right-hander Phil Hughes starts against Philadelphia. Tuesday's home game will also be televised by Fox Sports North.

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.