Wilson, Johnson renew bullpen battle

Wilson, Johnson renew bullpen battle

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Left-handers Justin Wilson and Kris Johnson renewed their battle for a bullpen spot in Saturday's 2-1 loss to the Twins.

Johnson took the defeat, walking two men in the eighth ahead of Brandon Boggs' tiebreaking single.

As for Wilson -- he looked too long-winded with too many weapons for relief work. The 25-year-old Triple-A veteran might have stuck his toe into the rotation competition through the back door with three shutout innings, allowing two hits and five strikeouts.

"We're looking for that guy who can pitch multiple innings, and he's a guy with a history of having length," said manager Clint Hurdle.

It was Wilson's fifth straight scoreless outing, and in nine innings across those games he has allowed five hits and struck out 12. His total of 13 strikeouts tops the staff.

The most impressive punchout probably came in the fifth inning, after Josh Willingham singled. That brought Wilson face-to-face with Justin Morneau -- specifically the class of left-handed power threat he would have to come out of the bullpen to confront.

Wilson got Morneau to chase a nasty breaking pitch for strike three.

"He was very, very good," Hurdle said. "He had command of all his pitches. The command of the fastball sets everything up, but he threw two different breaking balls -- curve and slider -- and some changeups, as well. A very good outing."

Johnson's effort was also solid, the loss notwithstanding. He fanned two, giving him eight strikeouts in 5 2/3 spring innings.

The battle, also featuring Mike Zagurski, goes on.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.