FORT MYERS, Fla. -- After his experience with the Twins last season, Darin Mastroianni is the favorite to win the center-field competition this spring, but he said Sunday that he knows the job won't be handed to him.
Mastroianni is competing for that spot along with prospects Aaron Hicks and Joe Benson, but he has a leg up. Hicks is yet to reach Triple-A Rochester, and Benson is coming off an injury-plagued season in the Minors after getting his first taste of the big leagues as a September 2011 callup.
"Obviously, it's an unbelievable opportunity, and I won't take it lightly, but my goal is to prepare just like I would for any season," Mastroianni said. "I'm going to try to prove to them I can handle that role, and take over that job this year. Right now in Spring Training, I'm just trying to prepare for April 1."
Mastroianni got in extra work this offseason, playing in 29 games for Aguilas de Zulia in the Venezuelan Winter League, where he hit .256 with a .381 on-base percentage and eight stolen bases. It came after he hit .252/.328/.350 with 21 stolen bases in 77 games with the Twins.
"The main goal was to get down there and see some pitching, because last year I got fewer at-bats than I usually do," Mastroianni said. "Last year, in a utility role, I had a little less at-bats."
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he's excited to see what Mastroianni can do now that he has a chance to play every day, since Denard Span and Ben Revere were traded this offseason.
"He brings that excitement to the game," Gardenhire said. "Anything can happen. He can steal bases. He's game on. He likes to get dirty and run around and dive all over the place. If you want somebody to amp it up a little bit, he can do that. He gets everybody excited with the way he runs the bases and steals. So I like that about him."
Lefty Perez tests shoulder from the mound
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Left-hander Rafael Perez threw his first bullpen session on Sunday since signing a Minor League deal with the Twins earlier this week.
Perez joined the club on Saturday and is still on a throwing program to rehab from shoulder surgery he had in September. It was just the second time he's thrown off the mound since the surgery, and he'll continue to build up strength from there. The club plans to stretch him out as a starter before deciding if he'll be in the rotation or the bullpen this season.
"We have plenty of time," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "So, we'll see how he is by the end of spring. I know he talked about getting stretched out, so we'll see how that goes. The first part is where we can get him in a game, and we'll go from there. So, we're guarded, but everyone says he feels great."
Before the shoulder injury, the former Indian was one of the better left-handed setup men in the American League; he has a career 3.64 ERA with 268 strikeouts in 329 innings. He also had a 1.38 ERA against the Twins in 38 innings, with his slider being his out pitch against left-handed hitters such as Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.
"That's what made him nasty," Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson said. "He threw a little two-seamer and four-seamer but his slider was the pitch our guys hated to see."
Despite weather, day two of camp successful
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- With temperatures in the 40s and heavy winds, it wasn't a typical Florida day for the Twins during their second day of full workouts on Sunday.
But the club was still able to get through all of the drills, including infield practice, pitchers fielding practice, bullpen sessions and batting practice.
"We got everything done," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It was a good day. Guys were really locked in. It was really fun to watch. The PFP went great on our field. I didn't see the guys down the street, but everybody said they did good. But our group was really locked in today. It was the best round yet."
The most entertaining part of practice was the pop up drills behind the plate for the catchers at Hammond Stadium. New bench coach Terry Steinbach had a little trouble operating the machine because of the wind, according to Gardenhire.
"The wind and the high sky, where the ball looks like a golf ball up high up there, and Steiny hitting the machine -- all of those made for elements that made it tough," Gardenhire said. "But it was good to get guys on the main stadium, so that guys know the distance and all that. So, it was a good drill for them. But it's tough."
The intensity at camp is expected to ramp up on Monday, as it'll be the first day of live batting practice between Twins pitchers and hitters. Players are also scheduled to get physicals before the workouts begin.
"We'll be in the clubhouse waiting until the physicals are done, and then we'll do some live BP and go through all of our drills, full squad," Gardenhire said. "So that'll be fun. I'll get a chance to see position players, which I haven't seen."