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Prospect Graterol to the bullpen ... for now

@dohyoungpark
January 21, 2020

ST. CLOUD, Minn. -- It's settled, then: Top pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol will remain a reliever for the time being. At the Twins Winter Caravan stop in St. Cloud on Monday night, pitching coach Wes Johnson and general manager Thad Levine said that the current plan for the 21-year-old Graterol

ST. CLOUD, Minn. -- It's settled, then: Top pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol will remain a reliever for the time being.

At the Twins Winter Caravan stop in St. Cloud on Monday night, pitching coach Wes Johnson and general manager Thad Levine said that the current plan for the 21-year-old Graterol is to allow him to develop more effective physical and mental routines for the Major Leagues while in a bullpen role, though this doesn't mean that the hard-throwing right-hander will be limited to such a role in the future.

"This is going to be a situation where you're probably going to need to ask us every two to three months about what we see the role being, because it's not hard and fast and defined," Levine said. "Once again, I just think the one thing we're all in consensus on is that this guy has the chance to be special at the big league level."

There had been much speculation throughout the offseason regarding the future of the No. 53 overall prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, after Graterol had transitioned into a bullpen role for his first taste of the Major Leagues at the end of the 2019 season following a Minor League career as a starter. Such speculation only intensified following the Twins' addition of Josh Donaldson instead of a front-end starter during the offseason, leaving vacancies in the rotation early in the season.

Levine emphasized that Graterol could still transition into a multi-inning role in the Majors, but there's no urgency to push him to immediately compete for a spot in the starting rotation this spring considering his youth and limited innings history. Graterol will still need to earn his roster spot in Spring Training, where he is likely to compete with Cody Stashak and Fernando Romero for one of the final spots in the bullpen.

Graterol has only amassed 214 innings in his Minor League career, only exceeded 71 innings in one season and also underwent Tommy John surgery that caused him to miss the entire 2016 campaign and much of the '17 season. With that in mind, there's a fine balance to be had between allowing Graterol to impact the Major Leagues and keeping him healthy.

"I think the one thing there's consensus on is he's a competitive advantage, and he can get big league hitters out," Levine said. "Now, it's up to us to try to put him in the best position to be able to get as many of them out as he possibly can without sustaining a risk of being injured."

Buxton begins baseball activity; all injured Twins on track

Byron Buxton, Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler, Marwin Gonzalez and other Twins injured towards the end of last season are on track to participate in Spring Training, according to Levine, though they might be eased into action. Buxton continues to recover ahead of schedule and is now resuming baseball activity, including preliminary work hitting off a tee.

"I think our mindset has always been, certainly, [manager Rocco Baldelli] is tripling down on this -- we want to get them ready for Opening Day," Levine said. "So I wouldn't be surprised if the workload to start Spring Training, we may be a little bit more judicious with a handful of these guys. But right now, nobody's had a setback. Everyone's tracking as expected."

Twins Winter Caravan completes first night stop in St. Cloud

"Wait, you're telling me one of our starting pitchers is suspended and another is hurt? It's been a terrible offseason for us!" Levine grinned as he fielded a question about the status of free-agent acquisition Rich Hill.

With their customary good humor, Levine, Baldelli, Johnson and rookie right-hander Randy Dobnak greeted approximately 450 fans on hand at the River's Edge Convention Center in St. Cloud on Monday night at the first night stop of their leg of the Twins Winter Caravan.

Following a stop at the studios of WCCO Radio in Downtown Minneapolis earlier in the day, the group made the trip up to St. Cloud, where it partnered with local radio affiliates in a dinner event that featured a panel curated by radio broadcaster Dan Gladden, an autograph line, a question-and-answer session and several autographed giveaways.

Several hours to the north, another leg of the Caravan featuring second baseman Luis Arraez and prospects Lewis Thorpe and Trevor Larnach wrapped up its first day in Twins Territory with a night stop in Fargo, N.D., following an earlier trek to Thief River Falls, Minn.

At the St. Cloud stop, fans were regaled to Dobnak's stories from his time driving Uber during his Minor League career and the saga of his in-season wedding last September, while they also queried Baldelli and Levine on serious baseball matters, including the status of Michael Pineda (suspension) and Hill (elbow surgery), the role of Graterol and new free-agent acquisition Donaldson, and the ongoing sign-stealing scandal affecting the Astros and Red Sox.

Levine was resolute in his comments about the scandal, drawing applause from Twins fans on hand.

"When you're in a competitive landscape, there are certain people that conduct their business in the light of, they're prepared to do whatever it takes to win," Levine said. "They'll win at all costs. I will tell you that we're prepared to do most of what it takes to win, but one thing we will never sacrifice is our integrity or our fanbase's integrity. You can count on that. We're never going to cross that line in the name of trying to win."

The first two legs of the Twins Winter Caravan conclude on Tuesday before two more leave Target Field on Wednesday.

Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.