FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The roster situation for the Twins gained some clarity on Thursday, as right-handers Tyler Duffey and Alan Busenitz and outfielder Jake Cave were optioned to Triple-A Rochester and non-roster invitees Erick Aybar, Brock Stassi, Chris Heisey, Bobby Wilson and Willians Astudillo were told they aren't making
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The roster situation for the Twins gained some clarity on Thursday, as right-handers Tyler Duffey and Alan Busenitz and outfielder Jake Cave were optioned to Triple-A Rochester and non-roster invitees Erick Aybar, Brock Stassi, Chris Heisey, Bobby Wilson and Willians Astudillo were told they aren't making the roster. Heisey asked for and was granted his release.
Additionally, right-hander Phil Hughes will open in long relief, with Minnesota beginning the season with four starters led by Jake Odorizzi getting the nod on Opening Day. The Twins have 13 healthy pitchers in camp competing for 12 spots, essentially making the last roster competition between Rule 5 Draft reliever Tyler Kinley and lefty Gabriel Moya for the final spot in the bullpen.
"There are a few things left to be done," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "It's one of those elusive days where I can't lay it all out there. We'll see what happens."
With Wilson and Astudillo not making the roster, Mitch Garver is the backup catcher, while Aybar not making the team is a bit of a surprise in the wake of Jorge Polanco's 80-game suspension. It bodes well for outfielders Robbie Grossman and Zack Granite, who can both make the roster now that Molitor is comfortable with only one backup infielder. Aybar is expected to meet with his agent before determining whether to accept an assignment with Triple-A Rochester or sign elsewhere. He has an out in his contract on Friday.
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"I would be fine with that," Molitor said of having only Ehire Adrianza as his backup infielder. "It makes it a little bit more difficult to protect your infielders and have one of them be the DH in a game. So we'll see how that goes."
Moya, who is having an excellent spring and threw a scoreless inning against the Yankees in Thursday's 2-1 loss to lower his ERA to 0.90, could be the odd man out in a bullpen that's expected to include closer Fernando Rodney, Addison Reed, Zach Duke, Trevor Hildenberger and Taylor Rogers.
Duffey came into camp competing for a spot in the rotation, only to see the Twins trade for Odorizzi and sign Lance Lynn during Spring Training. His best shot to make the club was in long relief, but Hughes showed he was healthy this camp and claimed the roster spot over Duffey.
Duffey, who posted a 7.11 ERA in five spring outings, will remain stretched out at Rochester. He won't be in the rotation, though, as he'll piggyback starters and pitch in relief. Duffey was disappointed by the news but took it in stride, knowing that if he pitches well in the Minors, he's just a phone call away from the Majors.
"Early on, with the all off-days, they don't need much length from the bullpen," Duffey said. "It's kind of a numbers game. I'll go down there in a predetermined role and stay stretched out. It's basically what I've been doing this spring, so I'll do that and hopefully I won't be down there too long."
Busenitz, meanwhile, came into spring with a chance to make the bullpen after posting a 1.99 ERA in 31 2/3 innings as a rookie last year. But he scuffled, posting a 7.27 ERA in nine appearances, although he did strike out 11 and walk two in 8 2/3 innings. He'll head to Rochester, where he had a 1.78 ERA in 35 1/3 innings last year.
Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter **@RhettBollinger** and **Facebook**.