FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) -- Josh Beckett was overpowering with the curveball he's trying to use more often this year. His other pitches didn't work as well.
Boston's No. 2 starter allowed one hit in 4 2-3 innings then gave up four runs on five hits before retiring his next batter in a 6-5 win over the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night.
"I went away from my curveball. I had some balls fall in," Beckett said. "The last inning the wheels just fell off."
He retired the first nine batters he faced and got seven of his first 14 outs on strikeouts.
"I don't know that you can pitch better than that," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.
But the next five Twins got hits before Beckett rebounded by striking out Joe Mauer, his last batter of the game.
"I feel great," Beckett said, focusing on his curveball. "I threw it for strikes when I wanted to throw it for strikes and I threw it for balls when I wanted to throw it for balls. That was something I struggled with a few starts ago."
Joel Pineiro got his first save in his effort to lock up the vacant closer's role.
"The ball is live, it's got some sink to it, got some tilt on his breaking ball," Francona said. "I'm encouraged."
Twins left-hander Glen Perkins, competing for a spot in the rotation, struggled from the start. In two innings, he allowed four runs on four hits and four walks.
"Whether he was a little jumpy, who knows," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said, "but he never really found a good rhythm and it's all about being able to make an adjustment and you see that with younger pitchers. Veterans know how to step off the mound a little bit better than some of the young guys, take a deep breath and make an adjustment."
He said Perkins remains in the running for a starting job.
Mike Lowell hit his third homer for Boston, which led 6-0 after four innings. Pineiro started the ninth with the score 6-5 and allowed a leadoff single before retiring the next three batters for his first save.
The Red Sox optioned LHP Kason Gabbard to Triple-A Pawtucket. ... Francona said 41-year-old reliever Mike Timlin will be ready to pitch after the first regular-season trip, which ends April 8. He didn't say whether Timlin, who has a strained side muscle, would start the season on the disabled list. ... INF Nick Punto was scratched from the Twins starting lineup with a groin injury, and Gardenhire said he is day to day. ... AL MVP Justin Morneau struck out in both at-bats. ... The Red Sox used their projected opening-day lineup except for center fielder Coco Crisp, who was replaced by Wily Mo Pena. Crisp, a righty thrower, has a sore left shoulder that was packed in ice before the game.