Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Emerging Opening Day Roster

There are only 16 days until Opening Day. I will let that fact sink in for a little bit......

As the season is fast approaching, there are many position battles that are coming into focus for the Opening Day roster. The starting nine are in their places, most of the rotation has been sorted out, and the bullpen has seen some players step up to the challenge.

The Opening Day starting line-up should look similar to this:

1. Denard Span, CF
2. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, 2B
3. Joe Mauer, C
4. Justin Morneau, 1B
5. Delmon Young, LF
6. Jason Kubel, DH
7. Michael Cuddyer, RF
8. Danny Valencia, 3B
9. Alexi Casilla, SS

The bench for the Twins is shaping up to look like this:
DH: Jim Thome
OF: Jason Repko
C: Drew Butera
IF: The last position on the bench for the Twins could be offering one of the most interesting battles left for the Opening Day roster. Two players are competing for the back-up infielder role on the bench. Matt Tolbert was the favorite for this role entering Spring Training. Luke Hughes has made put Tolbert's role in jeopardy on the big league squad. The Australian native, Hughes, has been ripping the cover off the ball this spring. From the sounds of it, Hughes is showing the higher-ups in the organization that he doesn't want to be left in Florida when the team heads north. One of the negatives for Hughes might be that he can't play SS. He does have the ability to play 3B, 2B, and in the outfield. Nishioka could move over the SS if the Twins need to plug Hughes in the line-up at 2B. Hughes would get my vote of confidence if Opening Day were starting today.

Starting Rotation:
1. Carl Pavano, RH
2. Francisco Liriano, LH
3. Brian Duensing, LH
4. Nick Blackburn, RH
5. Scott Baker, RH
The final spot in the rotation is still up for grabs but it sounds more likely that the Twins will try and deal Kevin Slowey before the season starts. The Twins have a lot of other options to pick from for the positions in the bullpen and there is not much sense in letting Slowey or Baker fill one of those spots. Neither of these players have much experience pitching out of the bullpen and the Twins have Kyle Gibson being groomed for a place in the rotation. I am a big fan of having as much starting pitching depth as possible but the Twins might be overstocked at this point.

Bullpen:
CL: Joe Nathan
Set-up: Matt Capps
Late inning LH: Jose Mijares
LH: Dusty Hughes
RH: Jeff Manship

Other LH: Scott Diamond vs. Glen Perkins
This might be the toughest decision the Twins have left to make this spring. The odds of both of these players making the Opening Day roster are slim to none. Perkins is out of options and Diamond was selected in the Rule 5 Draft so he has to make the team. My vote right now would be for Diamond to fill the last spot. I think the Twins will try and sneak Perkins through the waiver wire and hope that no one claims him before he lands back in the Twins minor league system.

Other RH: Alex Burnett, Jim Hoey, Pat Neshek, Anthony Slama, and Kyle Waldrop
That is a lot of players to fill one spot in the bullpen. There is also the chance that the Twins will get a right handed relief pitcher from a Slowey-trade. In that case all of the above players could find themselves not making the Opening Day roster. Earlier in the spring I was pushing for Alex Burnett and Pat Neshek to make the Opening Day roster. I wanted one of these players to fill the void left by Crain. At this point it might be a player the Twins can get for Slowey that fills the last spot.

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