|Twins Opening Day Roster|
Last Man Standing (Bullpen): Jeff Manship
The Twins had three different right-handed pitcher fighting for the last spot in the bullpen. With Hoey and Slama being sent to AAA, this left Manship as the winner of this contest. Manship pitched in ten games this spring while allowing eight runs over 13.1 innings. He also allowed 15 runs but only three walks. The team is satisfied enough with what he brings to the table to give him the final spot in the 'pen.
Last Man Standing (Utility): Matt Tolbert
Tolbert had to feel the heat this spring and it wasn't from the Florida sun. Luke Hughes was hot on his tale for the role of utility infielder on the Twins bench. The Twins gave Hughes the most at-bat so far this spring, he got to try out multiple positions, and he is leading the club in HR/RBI for the spring. His bat went cold down the stretch and that might have save Tolbert's job with the big club. The other negative going against Hughes was that the team wanted someone that could back-up SS. Tolbert fit that role for the team. If there are any injuries in the Twins infield this season, look for Hughes to get the call.
Man in Limbo: Scott Diamond
The Twins have one player that is currently floating in limbo for the team. Scott Diamond was selected by the Twins in the Rule 5 Draft from the Atlanta Braves. One of the stipulations with that Draft is the player that is selected must remain on the draftees 25-man roster for the entire season or be offered back to the original organization for half of the drafting fee. The Twins seem to really like Diamond but didn't see enough from him this spring to give him one of the 25-man spots. The Twins are trying to work out a trade with the Braves to keep Diamond in the Twins minor league system. Either way there will be something happening with Diamond this week.
RHP Carl Pavano
LHP Francisco Liriano
RHP Nick Blackburn
RHP Scott Baker
LHP Brian Duensing
The battle for the starting rotation was one of the most interesting to watch this spring. As pitchers and catchers reported to spring training there was a buzz about the six viable candidates for starting pitching roles with the team. Throughout the spring the Twins have slowly added to their Opening Day starting rotation. The challengers for the final spot were Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey. In the end, Slowey will be making his appearances out of the bullpen to start the year. The Twins also got a good look at Kyle Gibson this spring and that adds to the depth that the organization has at the starting pitcher position. There was also a lot of trade talk this spring surrounding the Twins and their starting pitchers. This is a strength that the club should cherish right now. Having extra starting pitching is never a bad thing.
RHP Joe Nathan
RHP Matt Capps
LHP Jose Mijares
RHP Kevin Slowey
RHP Jeff Manship
LHP Dusty Hughes
LHP Glen Perkins
The bullpen battle was also one of the most interesting story lines to follows this spring. At the outset of the spring the bullpen was going to contain the two closers (Nathan/Capps), the lefty (Mijares), and one of the extra starters (Slowey). This left three spots to fill for the Twins as the season drew near. Perkins could have been one of the players that the Twins tried to sneak through waivers to the minor leagues (since he is out of options). But the Twins will go with this core group to start the year and see what they can bring to the table.
The entire infield offered quite a few different headlines this spring. Morneau's return from a concussion and Nishioka's arrival were two of the biggest things for fans to watch in Florida. As position players reported to camp the Twins told reporters that Casilla wasn't a guarantee for an Opening Day starting spot. That plan didn't last long. Valenica had a very solid spring and is looking to improve in his sophomore season. Overall the infield looks young and hungry to prove they belong.
There were really no question marks as to who would be making the roster out of this group. There were a couple injuries for Cuddyer and Young to fight through, but both look ready to start the season. The biggest question surrounding this group might be how Gardenhire is going to find at-bats for both Kubel and Thome. A lot of good players to fit into a 9-man batting order.... that sounds like a good problem to have.
Thome has been hitting homeruns all over the minor league fields this spring. This means that he has seen limited action in the team's major league games. The Twins aren't worried though. Thome will be ready and fans are excited to watch his chase for his 600th homerun.
Another area of the 25-man roster that offered very little controversy this spring was the catching spot. Mauer has taken his time to recover from some procedures in the offseason. All along he has said that being ready for Opening Day was his goal and that is the plan the Twins have been following this spring.