Pirates 7, Twins 3

BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) -- Starting the Pittsburgh Pirates' opener might mean a little more to a 26th-round draft choice like Ian Snell than it does for some pitchers who were picked higher or projected to be stars from the start of their careers.

Snell, making his last start before pitching the Pirates' opener Monday in Atlanta, gave up two runs over six innings during Pittsburgh's 7-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday.

When the Pirates drew up their throwing schedule earlier in camp, left-hander Tom Gorzelanny was in line to pitch the opener. That didn't surprise Snell, who said, "Everything was involved around Gorzelanny. I just was like flying under the radar."

Snell, who recently signed an $8.6 million, three-year deal that includes two option seasons, was motivated by the recently announced decision to start him instead. Especially since, at least statistically, Gorzelanny (14-10, 3.88 ERA) enjoyed a better 2007 season than Snell (9-12, 3.76 ERA).

"Last year, I didn't get the opportunity (to start the opener), so I worked hard this whole offseason and I'm working hard this spring, and I guess I got rewarded," Snell said. "I'm going to make the best of it and go out and do my job."

Snell gave up Jon Knott's leadoff homer into a strong breeze to left field to begin the second inning, and Joe Mauer and Mike Cuddyer had consecutive doubles in the third as Minnesota took a 2-0 lead. After that, Snell didn't allow any more scoring while giving up six hits, striking out four and walking one.

"He settled in, got his slider going and the command of his fastball got better," manager John Russell said. "We got him up to 90 (pitches), so he's ready to go. I think he's done what he needs to do to get ready for the season."

Spring training is in its final week, but it wasn't very spring-like in Bradenton despite the sunny skies. The gametime temperature was an unseasonably cool 61 degrees, with a steady wind of 15-20 mph that made it feel like an April game in Pittsburgh.

Adam LaRoche had an RBI double and Ryan Doumit and Xavier Nady added run-scoring singles during the Pirates' three-run fourth against Kevin Slowey, the Twins' minor league pitcher of the year last season. Slowey lasted five innings, yielding four runs and five hits.

Jason Bay and Ronny Paulino each had two of the Pirates' 11 hits.

Game notes
Pirates 2B Freddy Sanchez (shoulder) threw lightly during a workout and batted in a minor league game, but his status for the opener remains uncertain. ... Pirates closer Matt Capps pitched the ninth, but not in a save opportunity after the Pirates scored three runs in the eighth. ... Russell settled the Pirates' one position player competition, choosing Nate McLouth to start in CF ahead of rookie Nyjer Morgan. McLouth is hitting .311 to Morgan's .228. ... Twins opening-day starter Livan Hernandez makes his final spring training start Wednesday against the Rays in Fort Myers. ... Twins SS Adam Everett (flu) remained away from the team but expects to return Wednesday. ... Twins RHP Scott Baker, bothered by the flu and an accompanying weight loss for several weeks, will pitch a minor league game Wednesday. He is scheduled to start the Twins' fifth game of the season, April 4 against Kansas City.