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03/15/08 7:58 PM ET

Eaton, Kendrick feeling better

Veteran's health, performance improve; rookie finds changeup

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Before Saturday's game got ugly, Adam Eaton took a step toward securing the fifth-starter's job he thought was his all along.

The maligned right-hander tossed three scoreless innings against a Twins lineup that included 2006 American League Most Valuable Player Justin Morneau and regulars Delmon Young, Jason Kubel and Mike Lamb. He surrendered five hits, while walking none and striking out two.

Nine days after giving up four runs against the Rays and revealing a lower-back issue, Eaton said he was pleased with the results after throwing 51 pitches.

"It felt good to get out there and feel good, not only body-wise, but stuff-wise," Eaton said. "The two go hand in hand. I didn't have to compensate for anything."

Eaton joked that the "Florida air" played a part in his recuperation, but credited back treatments with helping him feel stronger. There's still a long way to go, but he likes where he is.

Often reminded of his 6.29 ERA in the first season of a three-year, $24.5 million contract signed before the 2007 season, Eaton would like to justify that salary for himself and his teammates.

"You want to go out there and pitch for yourself, but first and foremost, you're pitching for your team," he said. "If I take the mound, I want [my teammates] to feel like, 'We're going to get a win tonight,' as opposed last year when it was, 'What's he going to give us? Flip a coin and see what it's going to be.' They know what type of pitcher I am, because they've faced me and the excitement that I came with last year. If I'm healthy and ready to go this year, that excitement will be fulfilled."

While Eaton danced through three innings in a Grapefruit League game, teammate Kyle Kendrick, another struggling starter, worked four innings against Toronto's Double-A team at the Carpenter Complex.

Kendrick allowed two earned runs on four hits and two walks, while striking out two. After spending previous outings refining a changeup as a new weapon, Kendrick rediscovered his bread-and-butter pitch in his 57-pitch outing.

"It's nice to have it back," Kendrick said. "It's kind of like that jump shot, and it was definitely a good feeling for me. The last two times, the sinker wasn't working."

Pitching coach Rich Dubee said Kendrick's velocity was in the 90-93 mph range. Kendrick was happy to have his location.

"You want to have results, but today it was getting my pitches down," Kendrick said. "The sinker was there, my pitches were better. It was just an all-around thing I was happy with."

Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.