Burnett off to a great start

Burnett off to a great start

ST. PETERSBURG -- Suffice it to say Alex Burnett has put his rocky Spring Training behind him.

The 24-year-old reliever hasn't allowed a run in his first 8 1/3 innings of work this season, displaying excellent control following a spring in which he posted a 6.97 ERA and 2.23 WHIP in 10 1/3 innings.

Burnett has given up eight hits so far -- three of which came in his two innings on Thursday night in New York -- and only one walk with four strikeouts. He worked his way out of two jams on Thursday, inducing two inning-ending double plays in the sixth and seventh innings.

"He's throwing the ball very well. He got himself in a little bit of a mess [on Thursday], but I thought he pitched out of it," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He made some pitches when he had to."

Burnett made several adjustments on the mound that may have contributed to his unimpressive spring statistics, and perhaps contributing to his early season success. He changed sides of the rubber, focused more on pitching to the outer half of the plate and worked on his slide-stepping. With most of his attention directed toward tweaking his mechanics, Gardenhire suggested, it was a little harder to focus on his pitches.

"The ball's coming out of his hand. He's using his pitches better," said Gardenhire. "His fastball's really good right now; it's jumping up on people pretty good. After the terrible spring he had, and he was working on some things, he's actually throwing the ball pretty good. We need him. We need him to get some big outs for us.

"We'll see if he can maintain it."