Notes: Garza finally without neck pain

Notes: Garza finally without neck pain

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- After two weeks of dealing with neck pain and headaches that eventually kept him off the mound, Twins pitcher Matt Garza is finally pain free.

Garza went to see a doctor Wednesday and received a shot of lidocaine to a trigger point in his neck that helped to alleviate the problem. The treatment came after Garza had undergone a CT scan and an MRI on his neck and even a visit to a neurologist to try to determine what was causing the pain.

Some lingering soreness remains in his neck, but Garza said he woke up Thursday without a headache for the first time since he first began feeling the pain Feb. 24 while throwing live batting practice.

"I was so relieved this morning when I woke up and I didn't feel any pain," Garza said.

Garza threw a light, six-minute bullpen Thursday morning, and he is scheduled to throw a full bullpen session Friday. Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson wants to make sure Garza is able to throw at his usual velocity without experiencing any kind of pain in his neck. But if everything goes well in this next bullpen, Garza should return to game action Sunday.

The news is just what Garza was hoping to hear as he tries to compete for one of the openings in the Minnesota rotation. Having to stay off the mound wasn't helping Garza in the race, and it led to a little bit of anxiousness for the pitcher.

"I wasn't worried about it, but rather just frustrated," Garza said of the lingering neck pain. "I was like, 'What do I have to do to get back in there?' Now I know what it was [in my neck] and I'm ready to get back out there and compete."

A better changeup? It seems almost impossible to imagine Johan Santana improving the pitch that has been his calling card since he arrived in the league.

But while the changeup has been the key to Santana's success, it also has been the pitch that takes the longest for him to control at the start of the season. And so far this spring, Anderson said that he has seen Santana's changeup in better form than ever before at this time of year.

"Of all the years he's been in here I think he's got control of his changeup earlier than he has before," Anderson said. "Watching him early in the year in years past, that's the pitch he's struggled with. But I noticed from the first time he started to throw on the side to batting practice, he's got a hold of that a little quicker this year."

Santana said he felt much better about his second outing against Boston on Thursday. The left-hander threw 54 pitches during his three scoreless innings, allowing just one hit while walking two and striking out three. The difference, though, was mainly in the fact that this time around, his misses were down in the zone.

"I had better command today than I had last time," Santana said. "I'm making progress. It's a matter of time to get the feeling for all of your pitches, but right now I'm throwing everything."

First impression: Left-hander Jose Mijares made his first outing of the spring in the ninth inning of the Twins' 1-0 victory over the Red Sox.

Mijares' debut had been delayed after he missed some time this spring following the death of his brother, Jackson, who was shot and killed in Caracas, Venezuela. It was a rough start to the spring for Mijares, who had impressed the Twins last year during his first big-league camp.

But Anderson said the Twins got a message of just where Mijares, 22, might be at even before he left camp to return to Venezuela. He had intially reported to Fort Myers about 25 pounds lighter and appeared on a mission to show he's matured as a pitcher.

"I hardly recognized him when he walked into camp," Anderson said. "It showed you where he's at -- that he's taking the game a little more seriously. He has got a loose, live arm and keeps himself under control pretty well. I like this kid a lot."

Across the state: The Twins split up their squad for two games on Thursday with the other half of the team heading to the east side of Florida to play the Cardinals in Jupiter.

Despite not being able to see the Gold Coast game, Anderson was pleased with the news he heard on the pitching performances. Scott Baker started the game and was able to rebound from his first two outings as he pitched three innings, allowing one run on three hits and striking out four. Lefty Dennys Reyes made his spring debut in the contest and threw one scoreless inning, giving up just one hit and striking out two.

Twins tidbits: Luis Castillo was back in the lineup Thursday after missing five games with a sore back. ... Sidney Ponson is the only pitcher in Twins camp that has yet to see action in a Grapefruit League game. Ponson is scheduled to pitch in Friday's game against the Dodgers at Vero Beach.

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