Notes: Ortiz's game plan working

Notes: Ortiz's game plan working

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Twins signed veteran pitcher Ramon Ortiz with the hope that pitching coach Rick Anderson could help get the right-hander back to the form he had early in his career as a starter.

So far, it appears that the plan is working.

After Ortiz displayed another strong start Tuesday in a Grapefruit League game against the Dodgers in which he retired nine consecutive batters and struck out one, the pitcher credited Anderson with his improvement.

"He's working very hard with me," Ortiz said. "He's teaching me a lot of things to make me feel a lot better than last year."

One of the specific things that Ortiz said he has focused on with Anderson is taking a plan into his bullpen sessions like he does with a game. It's something that Anderson discusses with each of his pitchers, but he felt it could drastically reduce a problem that Ortiz had last season.

When Anderson talked with catcher Matthew LeCroy, a teammate of Ortiz's in Washington, LeCroy said it was big innings that led to the pitcher's high ERA. LeCroy said that things would be going along well for Ortiz until the point where he started to press, leading to a big inning.

"Sometimes you try to throw [harder], and when you do that, the ball ends up in the middle of the plate," Ortiz said. "Then comes the base hit, home run and so on. Now I want to focus on the next pitch and make a good pitch. That's my plan now, and so far that's worked."

Ortiz was so efficient in Tuesday's start that he threw just 32 pitches over the three innings. After exiting the game, Ortiz went to the bullpen and threw 12 more pitches to try and extend himself before his next outing.

In two starts this spring, Ortiz has a 1.80 ERA. But while results can be misleading in spring, it was the manner in which Ortiz pitched during both of his outings that has impressed the Twins staff so far.

"He went out there and attacked the strike zone," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "The game moves along nicely with him in there, and that's something we like to see."

More than just a pain: The Twins have grown increasingly concerned with Matt Garza's neck pain and have scheduled an appointment for the pitcher to see a neurologist.

The right-hander was taken out of his outing against the Devil Rays on Monday after throwing to just two hitters due to the pain hindering his pitching motion. Garza underwent a CT scan last week to try and find out the cause of the problem, but nothing was discovered.

The right-hander has been waking up every morning with slight headaches and said that he feels the stiffness constantly. Garza likely will undergo an MRI in the coming days, and Gardenhire said the club will wait to find a cause before allowing him to get back on the mound.

"When you see something like that, it's not something you want to deal with," Gardenhire said of Garza's awkward pitching motion on Monday. "We want to make sure he's healthy."

Injuries 101: Lew Ford continues to make progress with his sore right knee. Ford said that he was able to swing and do some running again Tuesday. He's still experiencing some stiffness, but said that he expects to progress to running the bases possibly as early as Wednesday.

Luis Castillo (sore back) is expected to be back in the Twins lineup for Thursday's split-squad game against the Red Sox. Castillo has missed four straight games due to the ailment.

Alejandro Machado (tight shoulder) will not throw for at least four to five days after receiving a cortisone shot in his right shoulder. An MRI on the shoulder revealed that it was extremely tight, so the plan is to have Machado complete a program of stretching and plenty of exercises to help loosen it before he's back throwing.

Jeff Cirillo (stiff neck) remains day-to-day, but likely will not be available until after the weekend. Cirillo has yet to start swinging, and will have to do so for a few days before he will be ready for game action.

Agent alert: Justin Morneau's agent, Mark Pieper, was scheduled to arrive in Fort Myers on Tuesday for his annual spring visit with his client. But also on his agenda could be a meeting with Twins general manager Terry Ryan.

Morneau has talked recently about his interest in reopening talks for a multi-year deal after he and the team agreed to a one-year, $4.5 million contract to avoid arbitration this offseason. The first baseman said that he asked his agent to schedule the meeting, and has hopes that something can be completed.

"I think both sides are open to talking," Morneau said.

Ryan has refused to comment on contract talks this spring, and Morneau also would not get into specifics about a possible deal.

Twins tidbits: Sidney Ponson will see his first Grapefruit League action on Friday against the Dodgers in Vero Beach. Ponson will back up Carlos Silva, who is scheduled to start. ... Third baseman Nick Punto is 1-for-14 (.071) this spring in Grapefruit League games. ... Ortiz ran for nearly 30 minutes following his start and said that running is a daily ritual for him. On the day after he pitches, Ortiz takes an hour-long run and credits it with helping keep his stamina up during games.

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