Nathan returns, but Twins lose to Red Sox 5-0

Posted March 01, 2011, at 7:34 p.m.
Last modified March 01, 2011, at 10:54 p.m.

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Boston Red Sox starter Jon Lester turned in a strong effort in his first spring outing Tuesday. He struck out one, walked one and gave up one hit in two scoreless innings as Boston beat the Minnesota Twins 5-0 Tuesday.

“You don’t want to go out and get your butt kicked,” said Lester, who went 19-9 with a 3.25 ERA last season. “Spring training is about going out there and getting ready for the season. At the same time, I want to go out there and compete. I don’t hold anything back. To me, that’s when you get hurt.”

Mike Cameron went 2 for 3 and Jed Lowrie was 1 for 3 with an RBI for the Red Sox. Juan Carlos Linares, a minor leaguer, went 2 for 2 with an RBI and two runs.

For the Twins, pitcher Joe Nathan let loose with his fastball — and a few smiles.

The All-Star closer returned to the mound  for the first time since an elbow injury wiped out his 2010 season, throwing a scoreless inning.

The righthander got two flyouts and a groundout in the fourth, walking Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

“I was nervous for sure,” said Nathan, who had surgery last March 26 to repair the torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. “I was definitely anxious to get out there. But then, I’ve been looking forward to today for a long time, so I was excited, too. It went well.”

Nathan, a four-time All-Star, has 246 saves for the Twins, including a career-best 47 in 2009. He said he felt ahead of where he has been at this point in previous spring trainings.

“I don’t want to make anything bigger than what it is,” the 36-year-old reliever said. “It’s the first spring training game. I think every step that I’ve gone through over the summer last year and throughout this offseason, there are a lot of big steps. Of course, going into a game and being in front of more people, it makes it seem bigger.”

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he noticed not so much how Nathan threw but how he acted afterward.

“Very excited to see him out there,” Gardenhire said. “We’re really excited for him. He’s normally pretty calm about the whole thing, but he was all smiles afterward.

“When you love the game as much as he does, it’s a pretty big day for him.”

Nathan wasn’t the only Twins pitcher battling back from an injury; Scott Baker had bone chips removed from his right elbow after last season ended. He started Tuesday and gave up one walk and one run on two hits in 1 2-3 innings.

“It was kind of typical of spring training at this time for me,” Baker said. “I felt pretty good about it. No pain. Just a little inconsistent.”

NOTES: Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett did not work out Tuesday after getting hit in the head during batting practice Monday and experiencing symptoms of a concussion. Red Sox manager Terry Francona said Beckett’s status is day to day. … Kyle Gibson, the Twins’ minor league pitcher of the year in 2010, drew rave reviews from Gardenhire after catching a line drive with a runner on third during the fifth inning. Gibson, a first-round pick in 2009, struck out one, walked one and gave up one run on two hits in one inning. “I love to watch him pitch,” Gardenhire said. “He’s smooth. I’m pretty excited about that young man. He’s a nice looking player, and I do mean player. He can handle himself. Whoever has been in his baseball background has done a very, very good job.” … Danny Valencia went 2 for 2 for the Twins, half of his team’s four hits.

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