PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. (AP) A pair of ex-Washington Nationals who came to Tampa Bay with vastly different expectations helped the Rays beat the Minnesota Twins 4-2 Thursday.
Steven Souza, who is expected to provide power in the middle of a lineup that produced only 117 home runs last season, hit a long two-run homer. Making his fourth start, right-hander Nate Karns pitched 4 1-3 innings.
When spring training began, Karns was among several candidates for what appeared to be the only open spot in the Tampa Bay pitching rotation. After injuries to Alex Cobb and Drew Smyly, and Alex Colome's bout with pneumonia, the 27-year-old right-hander appears on track to be the Rays' third starter.
''We've had some guys hit the injury bug,'' said Karns, who was 1-1 in a pair of September starts for the Rays last season. ''Everyone works really hard during the offseason to get here and I feel bad for the guys who get cut short like that.''
Karns was sidelined during 2010, his first professional season, because of a shoulder injury. He was 9-9 with a 5.08 ERA in 27 starts at Triple-A Durham.
''I'm happy with I've done so far,'' Karns said. ''I'm just going to continue to progress and put my work in, and whatever happens happens. I can't control the rest.''
Two of Souza's first four hits for the Rays have been home runs, including Thursday's drive off Ricky Nolasco.
''Finding barrels and putting together quality ABs, that's all I'm looking for right now, but when you hit a ball like that, it feels good,'' Souza said.
Tampa Bay acquired him on Dec. 19, just 10 months after the Nationals traded Karns to the Rays.
''I don't know that I feel pressure to live up to any standards that anybody puts, but I feel like if I go out there and do my best every day, the numbers will play out,'' Souza said. ''I'm not looking to hit 50 or 60 homers a year, but getting those runs across, that's important.''
Twins: Closer Glen Perkins threw 14 pitches in a Triple-A game, his first inning since straining his oblique on March 4.
Rays: Alex Cobb, sidelined by tendinitis in his last start Tuesday, said the pain in his elbow intensified Wednesday but subsided after heat and cold treatments.
Twins: Nolasco gave up three runs and four hits in 3 2-3 innings.
Rays: Karns reached his pitch limit of 65 after allowing two runs and six hits while striking out four.
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Rays manager Kevin Cash on the six-man competition for three pitching spots: ''We had multiple guys competing for maybe one spot. Now we have multiple guys competing for more than one spot. The guys that are in this, they understand their situation and also the team's.''
Twins: Kyle Gibson is to make his fourth start against the Pittsburgh Pirates, at Fort Myers.
Rays: Starting rotation candidates Burch Smith and Matt Andriese are to pitch multiple innings against Toronto.