FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Most of the Twins spent Thursday morning weaving and bobbing through the clubhouse, packing bags and snapping jokes back and forth. Orlando Hudson held court in the trainer's room with a group of teammates and coaches. Another group loitered around Joe Mauer's locker following a brief team meeting.
"It was definitely different getting prepared this morning than usual," Thursday's starter, Nick Blackburn, said. "Everyone's scrambling around."
Some of them scrambled to the other side of Fort Myers, where the Twins lost to the Red Sox, 5-3, at City of Palms Park. And there, for about three hours, time slowed.
"It was fine once I got in there and started throwing a little bit," Blackburn said. "I went out to the bullpen and my focus set right in where it needed to be. Everything felt great when I got here and got settled down."
And it showed. Blackburn, who is set to pitch Game 2 of the season in Anaheim, allowed three runs in five innings against the Sox, striking out two and walking none. It was Blackburn's final tuneup of a successful Grapefruit League season.
The previous day, general manager Bill Smith referred to Blackburn's 2009 season as a "carbon copy" of his 2008 campaign. Most teams would take that. But the Twins see it as reason to believe that Blackburn, smack in the middle of his prime at age 28, can improve upon his 11-11 record and 4.03 ERA.
"We're hopeful that he's going to be better," Smith said.
The Twins will find out soon enough. Shortly after arriving back at Hammond Stadium, the Twins piled aboard buses bound for the airport, where they headed to Minneapolis and the promise of summer baseball.
The buses arrived at just the right time.
"For the most part," Blackburn said, "I think we're just ready to get the season going."