FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Spring Training is here for the Twins, with pitchers and catchers set to report to the CenturyLink Sports Complex on Tuesday, yet the club is expected to add to their pitching staff this spring.After an unusual offseason that saw several top free agents go unsigned leading
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Spring Training is here for the Twins, with pitchers and catchers set to report to the CenturyLink Sports Complex on Tuesday, yet the club is expected to add to their pitching staff this spring.
After an unusual offseason that saw several top free agents go unsigned leading up to Spring Training, the Twins remain interested in bolstering their starting rotation, especially after right-hander Ervin Santana is expected to miss the first two to four weeks of the regular season because of surgery to his right middle finger. The Twins made signing Yu Darvish a priority this offseason, but he agreed to a six-year, $126 million contract with the Cubs on Saturday.
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The Twins were reluctant to go beyond five years for Darvish and now must look at alternatives on the free-agent market such as Lance Lynn, Alex Cobb, Chris Tillman or Jaime Garcia. The Twins have also explored the trade market, and reportedly offered a deal to the Rays for right-hander Chris Archer. Archer, though, would require a substantial return, as he has a club-friendly contract that has options through the 2021 season.
Otherwise, the Twins begin their workouts for pitchers and catchers on Wednesday, with the rest of the club reporting on Sunday, and the first full-squad workout on Feb. 19. It leads up to an exhibition game against the University of Minnesota on Feb. 22 at Hammond Stadium before opening up Grapefruit League play against the Red Sox at JetBlue Park on Feb. 23. It's the first of 33 Grapefruit League games to get the Twins ready for Opening Day in Baltimore on March 29.
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With every notable position player except for backup catcher Chris Gimenez returning from last season, most of the focus this spring will be on how the rotation shapes up, and the battle for the last few spots in the bullpen. But there remains a chance the Twins could look to extend veterans such as James Dozier and Joe Mauer, who are both in the last year of their contracts, which is something to monitor before the start of the season.
The rotation remains up in the air beyond Jose Berrios and Kyle Gibson, as Phil Hughes has to show he's healthy after a second rib surgery, and Tyler Duffey will be stretched out to start after relieving last year. Youngsters such as Adalberto Mejia, Aaron Slegers, Fernando Romero and Stephen Gonsalves could factor into the rotation early in the year with Santana out.
The bullpen is a bit less volatile after the signings of Fernando Rodney, Addison Reed and Zach Duke, as they join fellow relievers Trevor Hildenberger, Taylor Rogers and Thomas Pressly. Up-and-coming arms such as Alan Busenitz, John Curtiss, Gabriel Moya, Jake Reed and Rule 5 Draft pick Tyler Kinley will compete for the final spots in the bullpen, depending on how many relievers the Twins decide to open the season with.
There's more optimism and excitement surrounding this year's camp as compared to recent years, as the Twins are coming off their surprising run to the American League Wild Card Game, which was their first postseason berth since 2010. Crowds were up at TwinsFest, and on their annual Caravan, and ticket sales have also jumped in anticipation of this season.
Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter **@RhettBollinger** and **Facebook**.