A 'blah' game for Boof: Twins' Bonser lit up

— Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Boof Bonser entered Tuesday's Grapefruit League game against the Philadelphia Phillies with a 1.80 ERA this spring.

By the time he left, the 24-year-old right hander's ERA had ballooned to 10.29. Needless to say, one of the more intriguing names in Twins camp found himself on the losing end of an 8-3 decision.

The Phillies rocked Bonser for six runs in the second inning, three coming on a home run by new Philadelphia center fielder Aaron Rowand and another on a solo shot by Ryan Howard, his league-leading eighth long ball this spring.

"Bons had a tough time early and the game just went 'blah' all the way along," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Bonser nearly pitched out of a bases-loaded, nobody-out situation in the second by coaxing a soft lineout and fanning Shane Victorino, but Abraham Nunez drove in a pair with a double that was followed by the back-to-back blasts by Rowand and Howard.

"I though I was going to get out of it, but I didn't get a chance to until they did the damage," Bonser said.

Twins catcher Joe Mauer, left, gives starting pitcher Boof Bonser a pat on the back while walking back to the mound Tuesday against the Phillies during the second inning of their game in Fort Myers. Bonser gave up six runs in the second inning.

Associated Press

Twins catcher Joe Mauer, left, gives starting pitcher Boof Bonser a pat on the back while walking back to the mound Tuesday against the Phillies during the second inning of their game in Fort Myers. Bonser gave up six runs in the second inning.

Bonser, who went 11-9 at Triple-A Rochester last year, might be a long shot to inherit a spot in the Twins already-loaded rotation, but he has made a name for himself with his, well, name.

Bonser was born John Bonser, but legally changed his name to Boof after his 2000 debut in short-season. He said no one called him John — he was already "Boof" to his friends and teammates, a name his mother gave him as a child. "My mom gave it to me when I was young," Bonser said. "I didn't ask (why) and pretty much don't want to know."

It's also been the demeanor of the 6-foot-4, 260-pound St. Petersburg native that has caught the eye of the Twins coaches.

Pitching coach Rick Anderson said he was watching Bonser and 2005 top draft pick Matt Garza throw during the second week of camp, and asked the pair when they though they would break into the big leagues.

Garza pinpointed this summer as his entry.

"When's opening day?" Bonser responded.

TEAM MEETING: Though the memorials are over, Gardenhire made sure this group of Twins won't forget Kirby Puckett's legacy. The team held a meeting before the game Tuesday and discussed how the Hall of Fame center fielder could serve as an example.

"We talked about Puck's situation, what he meant to all of us, what he meant to this organization," Gardenhire said. "Some of these people didn't get a chance to watch him play in person, and we let them know he played the game the right way. How he played is how we expect everyone to play it."

ROSTER MOVES: The Twins optioned outfielder Alex Romero and pitchers J.D. Durbin and Pat Neshek to Triple-A Rochester on Tuesday. Minnesota also optioned pitcher Errol Simonitsch, who played for the Single-A Fort Myers Miracle last season, to Double-A New Britain.

Riverdale High graduate Tommy Watkins was reassigned to the team's minor league camp, as were outfielders Denard Span and Kevin West. Watkins was 0-for-8 this spring with three strikeouts.

After the game, the Twins optioned pitchers Adam Harben, Justin Jones and Jose Mijares to New Britain. Catcher Kyle Phillips was reassigned to the team's minor league camp.

"We're getting down in numbers now where we can work it a little easier," Gardenhire said.

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