Heading in the right 'wey

Slowey to start third game of year

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Just before Kevin Slowey went to the mound for his second to last Spring Training start on Tuesday, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said that the right-hander would start the third game of the season against the Angels.

Just don't tell Slowey that he's a lock for the rotation.

"I think until you are on the plane heading to Minnesota, you are trying to make the team," Slowey said after his outing. "That's just how it is. You want to keep going out there and prove to yourself and everybody out there that you're ready to play."

After putting together a dominating performance in his last start -- the one which appeared to lock up his spot in the rotation -- Slowey pitched five innings in a 7-3 loss to the Pirates on Tuesday, and he allowed four runs on six hits while striking out four.

The righty cruised early in his outing, retiring the first 11 batters he faced. But then he found some trouble. With two outs in the fourth inning, Slowey gave up four straight hits that led to three Pirates' runs.

Gardenhire said he noticed that Slowey started to get his pitches up when he ran out of gas late in his outing, but the skipper also blamed some of the trouble on missed plays by his defense.

"I think we added 25 pitches onto him by missing a play in center," Gardenhire said. "We probably cost ourselves about five runs today by misplaying some balls and things."

Slowey is next scheduled to start the Twins' final spring contest on Saturday, putting him on four days' rest for his start against the Angels on April 2.

But while Slowey wouldn't acknowledge that his spot might be secure, he did say he's in a much better mind-set now than he was earlier in spring.

"I think the last couple of outings -- this one included, even with that three-run inning -- I felt more comfortable on the mound," Slowey said. "I felt I was more in control of the situation, even with guys on base. ... So I feel like I'm starting to settle in here. I feel like a better feel for all of my pitches now than I did three to four weeks ago."

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