Owings’ effort helps Reds blank Twins
FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Francisco Liriano surrendered his first home run of the spring on Friday, but the Minnesota Twins’ pitcher has not lost his focus on returning to his 2006 form.
Liriano struck out five and walked one in 3 1-3 innings in front of a sellout crowd at Hammond Stadium in a 1-0 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.
‘‘He was still effective,’’ Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. ‘‘Very effective.’’
Reds right-hander Micah Owings, hoping to be the team’s fifth starter, struck out four and gave up no runs and two hits in four innings. He has a 1.23 ERA after four spring starts.
Jonny Gomes, a non-roster invitee for the Reds, slugged the homer over the left-field fence in the third inning.
Last year, Liriano went 6-4 with a 3.91 ERA in 14 big-league starts, striking out 67 batters in 76 innings, a promising comeback, Gardenhire said.
Gomes is competing with former Twins outfielder Jacque Jones and Chris Dickerson for the open starting spot in left field or a bench outfielder role. He bolstered his chances with the homer, his third of the spring. Gomes went 2-for-3 to boost his spring average to .364.
Dickerson, who started in center field, went 1-for-3 with two strikeouts and is hitting .348.
Jones, who has a lifetime .230 batting average against left-handed pitchers, struck out against Liriano and went 0-for-3 starting in left field. He lowered his spring batting average to .087.
‘‘He hasn’t found his stroke yet,’’ Reds manager Dusty Baker said. ‘‘We’ve seen a lot of left-handed pitchers so far. I know he can play. For whatever reason, sometimes you lose your stroke. When you’re trying to make the team, you don’t have a choice.’’