Notes: Silva needs that sinking feeling

Notes: Silva needs that sinking feeling

TAMPA, Fla. -- There appears to be a theme starting for Carlos Silva already this spring -- same stuff, different year.

The Twins preached all offseason that they are looking for Silva to rebound from a rough '06 season. But after Silva's first Grapefruit League start, it seems that there is still a lot of work for the right-hander to do if he's going to get there.

Silva pitched two innings while allowing five runs on four hits in the Twins' 6-1 loss to the Yankees on Thursday. Immediately, Silva appeared to have trouble with the command of his pitches as he walked two in the outing and recorded one hit-by-pitch. He threw a total of 42 pitches, with 26 coming in the first inning alone.

The numbers weren't the thing of most concern to the club as it was Silva's inability to get his sinker working effectively that raises some red flags. The sinker has been Silva's most effective pitch over his career and last year, when things went bad, it was due to an inability to get the pitch to work well.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said that it's still too early in the year to get worried about results, but that could change quickly.

"We will [be concerned] if this keeps happening over and over," Gardenhire said. "Right now it's first time out. [His sinker] dove a few times but not consistently. It just wasn't sinking good today."

Silva wasn't in complete agreement with Gardenhire as he said that he felt pretty good with how the ball was moving. He agreed that he missed with a few of pitches, but he feels it's just a matter of time before things begin to click.

"People aren't going to look at how you start," Silva said. "They're going to look at how you end. I'm not going to start worrying about it. Maybe the numbers don't show it, but I feel good."

Silva's mission now becomes to work on the sinker as much as possible. Gardenhire said that the plan will be to have Silva pound the sinker continually in his starts to make sure that it's working correctly. The other pitches will come, but most importantly, the coaching staff knows that Silva needs to master the pitch that eluded him all of last season.

"He's going to have to keep going at it," Gardenhire said of using the sinker. "And then we'll see at the end of spring if he's where we need him to be."

First glimpse: The Twins got their first look at one of their top pitching prospects when Kevin Slowey backed up Silva on Thursday. Slowey pitched two scoreless innings while allowing two hits and two walks.

It was a bit of a different look the Twins got of the 22-year-old though: Slowey was wearing glasses during the outing.

Slowey had a bit of a scare just a few days ago when he awoke from a nap to find one of his eyes swollen shut. Slowey immediately called the Twins' medical staff and upon a quick trip to the emergency room, the right-hander was diagnosed with a corneal ulcer.

"I'm just thankful they caught it in time," Slowey said. "They told me that I could have been blind within three days. It's just a blessing to have such a great medical staff to help me out here."

As for his performance on Thursday, Slowey said that, while it wasn't his best, he learned a lot from his first time out.

"I worked myself into and out of some problems," Slowey said. "I kind of escaped unscathed, but just barely. It feels good to have gone out and thrown. I know what I need to correct and I know what I need to work on now."

Fielding an opportunity: Jason Kubel may be penciled in as the top candidate for the Twins designated hitter spot, but he took a big step to proving to the club Thursday that he could also be an option for the outfield.

Kubel played left field in the game and showed quite a bit of range, even making a diving nab of a Robinson Cano liner in the third inning. It was enough to show the team that Kubel's knees may no longer be a concern.

"He's moving around pretty good out there," Gardenhire said. "We just want to make sure he keeps his legs underneath him. To see him running around diving, coming in and throwing a guy out and getting the bat head to the ball -- that's going to be a bonus for this ballclub. He's a pretty good player when he's going like that."

Infirmary report: Torii Hunter is still day-to-day after bending back his left thumbnail while sliding into second base on Wednesday night. Hunter was not scheduled to make the trip to Tampa but Gardenhire said that he feels it's likely Hunter will be able to play in the team's Friday night game vs. Cincinnati.

The team's other injury from Wednesday's game, Ken Harvey, is also still expected to miss 3-5 days, or longer, due to a pulled chest muscle.

Twins tidbits: Juan Rincon had been scheduled to throw in Thursday's game but felt that an extra side session would be helpful, pitching coach Rick Anderson said. Rincon was available in an emergency and will throw in a game in the next few days. ... Some very faint boos could be heard the first time that Justin Morneau stepped up to the plate in the second inning of Thursday's game. There had been some comments about whether Morneau would be booed by the Yankees faithful after he beat out Derek Jeter for the MVP. But in the end, it was a pretty quiet day for the first baseman.

Coming up: The Twins will hold their spring home opener on Friday night when they host the Cincinnati Reds in a 6:05 p.m. CT contest. Ramon Ortiz is scheduled to start for the Twins, while former Twins pitcher Kyle Lohse will start for Cincinnati.

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.