Eaton, Hernandez turn in strong starts for Phils

March 21, 2008 5:16:55 PM PDT
Adam Eaton pitched well for Philadelphia and assured he would be healthy for the start of the regular season. Livan Hernandez made Minnesota feel better about his readiness, too. Eaton allowed one run and pitched into the sixth inning, and the Phillies beat the Twins 3-2 on Friday. Hernandez struck out six in five innings.

Eaton, trying to secure his spot as Philadelphia's fifth starter, struck out four without a walk and gave up four hits in 5 1-3 innings. He has been bothered by a sore back, but said he is on track after lowering his spring ERA to 5.85. That mark was at 9.00 after his third exhibition start.

"The trainers are staying on top of it," Eaton said. "It feels good."

On the other side, the Twins finally saw the performance they've been waiting for from the pitcher they plan to start on opening day. Hernandez gave up three hits, two runs and one walk. He threw 87 pitches.

"He was better today," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Better than the last time. He was in Kenny Rogers mode. He likes to make the ball do something. That's just the way he pitches."

In his fifth exhibition start, Hernandez lowered his spring ERA from 9.69 to 8.00.

"I felt pretty good," he said. "I threw a lot of strikes. That was important."

With 10-plus years of major league experience, Hernandez is by far the most polished member of a young rotation. Minnesota badly needs some stability from him at the front of the rotation after signing him to a one-year contract - his first in the American League.

"If the starting pitchers do their job, we're going to be pretty good," Hernandez said. "We're going to surprise some people. You've got to take it as it goes. You have to play hard every day. I'm hoping to have a good year. More importantly, I'm hoping for the team to have a good year."

New Phillies starting center fielder Shane Victorino hit an RBI triple in the third for a 1-0 lead. So Taguchi hit an RBI single in the fourth, and Carlos Ruiz's sacrifice fly broke a ninth-inning tie.

Michael Cuddyer went 3-for-3, including a two-run double in the sixth for the Twins. He's batting .350 this spring after signing a $24 million, three-year contract in January.