Morneau, Wakefield make mark in Twins win over Sox

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FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Justin Morneau and Tim Wakefield each made encouraging returns to the field after a long offseason dealing with back injuries.

Morneau marked his return to Minnesota with a two-run double and Wakefield tossed two scoreless innings for Boston in his first post-surgery appearance in a 5-0 victory by the Twins over the Red Sox on Friday.

Morneau, who was shut down in mid-September because of a broken vertebrae in his lower back, went 1 for 2 with the double to right field off Red Sox starter Jon Lester in the first inning.

“I had a lot of adrenaline,” Morneau said of his first plate appearance, with the bases loaded in the bottom of the first inning.

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Morneau, the 2006 American League MVP, drove home Denard Span and new second baseman Orlando Hudson.

“I found myself thinking it’s way too early for this kind of at-bat,” said Morneau, who hit .274 with 30 homers and 100 RBIs last season. “It worked out well actually. I saw a few pitches. I saw what I liked, got lucky and found a hole.”

Twins catcher Joe Mauer, who walked in his first at-bat, then scored on a single by Michael Cuddyer for a 3-0 lead. Delmon Young hit a sacrifice fly that scored Morneau for a 4-0 lead.

The Twins scored their fifth run in the sixth inning when Alexi Casilla, competing for a roster spot, drove home catcher Danny Rams.

Mauer said it’s nice to have Morneau hitting behind him again.

“I know what it’s been like to sit and watch for a while. It’s not fun,” said Mauer, who missed all of last spring training with a lower back injury but still went on to win the AL MVP. “He got that first one out of the way, and he can focus on getting ready for the year.”

Same for Wakefield, who is eyeing the fifth starter spot in Boston’s deep rotation.

Wakefield had surgery to repair a herniated disk in his back last October. The 43-year-old knuckleballer worked the third and fourth innings, throwing 16 of his 21 pitches for strikes, with one hit and no walks.

Wakefield earned his first All-Star appearance last season but struggled in the second half. He had no wins in limited action after the break and finished the year 11-5 with a 4.58 ERA.

“I felt really good,” Wakefield said. “I felt like my timing was there. I was able to throw a lot of strikes. Physically, I felt fine. I was just happy to get the first one out of the way and get ready for the season.”

Red Sox manager Terry Francona liked what he saw.

“He’s on the regular rotation,” Francona said. “If he says he needs an extra day we can always build that in. I don’t anticipate that happening.”

Lester wasn’t as sharp. He gave up four runs on three hits and two walks in one inning before being pulled.

“I’ll make some adjustments,” Lester said. “I made a couple of good pitches. I’ll build on those. It’s the first one. We’ve got a lot more. There were some jitters and some excitement there, and that’s going to throw off your timing and your rhythm, too.”

NOTES: Twins 3B Nick Punto will make his spring debut Sunday after recovering from wrist surgery in January. … Twins RHP Loek Van Mil, who is listed at 7-foot-1, will have an MRI next week after having continued soreness in his shoulder.

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