FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It's exactly three weeks until Opening Day against the Orioles at Camden Yards on March 29, and the Twins have several roster decisions that need to be made in the coming weeks.The final spot in the rotation remains up for grabs, there's a competition for the
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It's exactly three weeks until Opening Day against the Orioles at Camden Yards on March 29, and the Twins have several roster decisions that need to be made in the coming weeks.
The final spot in the rotation remains up for grabs, there's a competition for the final bench spot and likely two openings in the bullpen. With that in mind, here's this week's Inbox:
• Twins Spring Training:Info | Tickets | Schedule
Twins manager Paul Molitor said on Wednesday that he still plans on opening with a four-man rotation, adding that there is no current favorite in that race for the final spot. With Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi and Kyle Gibson locks to be the first three starters, the last spot is essentially between Phil Hughes, Anibal Sanchez and Adalberto Mejia.
:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::
Hughes and Sanchez are both coming off subpar outings, and Hughes will throw in a simulated game on Friday so he can work on his changeup and slider locations without the game results mattering. Sanchez will get his first start on Sunday after giving up six runs over two innings against the Pirates last Sunday. Both right-handers threw in long relief last year and the loser of the rotation battle could be a candidate for that role, along with Tyler Duffey.
Mejia has admirably lost 16 pounds since last year, but he still has trouble putting away hitters like last season. He's hurt by the fact he can easily be optioned to Triple-A Rochester to start the year. Hughes will get the longest look because he's owed $26.4 million over the next two seasons, while only $500,000 of Sanchez's $2.5 million deal is guaranteed.
The Twins are looking at opening with a four-man bench that's expected to be composed of backup catcher Mitch Garver, backup infielder Eduardo Escobar, utility man Ehire Adrianza and a final bench piece that's basically down to a fourth-outfielder competition between Robbie Grossman and Zack Granite. Of course, that could change if Miguel Sano is suspended to open the season, as it could open a spot for non-roster infielder Erick Aybar.
:: Submit a question to the Twins Inbox ::
It's ultimately going to be up to the Twins to decide if they want a speedy backup outfielder who can play all three positions or a veteran switch-hitter who can get on base but struggles defensively. Grossman is out of options, while Granite can be optioned to Rochester, which could play a factor.
As for the bullpen, the eight relievers are likely to be Fernando Rodney, Zach Duke, Addison Reed, Trevor Hildenberger, Taylor Rogers and Thomas Pressly, with two spots open. One could be a long reliever such as Sanchez, Hughes or Duffey, while the other has candidates such as Rule 5 Draft pick Tyler Kinley, Alan Busenitz, John Curtiss and Gabriel Moya.
The Twins are very intrigued by Kinley, who must make the 25-man roster and remain on it all season or be offered back to the Marlins for $50,000. Kinley has a fastball that's reached as high as 99 mph and his slider is sitting 91-92 mph. Kinley has a shot at making the roster, but Minnesota could look to rid him of his Rule 5 Draft status by making a trade with Miami to keep him. They're not at that point yet, but the Twins do like his stuff.
At this point, the Twins and James Dozier are both prepared to leave Spring Training without an extension being signed. Things can always change, but there has been no movement on that front. Minnesota, though, is open to talking about a possible extension during the season, so there's no firm deadline.
As for their rationale, the Twins have plenty of middle-infield depth coming up to join shortstop Jorge Polanco with highly regarded shortstops Nick Gordon, Wander Javier and Royce Lewis in the organization. But it's always tough to move on from a franchise cornerstone, especially one with power and defense at a premium position. So an extension can't be fully ruled out in the future, but as of right now, Minnesota has showed no interest in exploring an extension this spring.
Right-hander Brusdar Graterol is one to watch, as he has the highest ceiling of any of starting pitcher in the farm system. The 19-year-old is the club's No. 7 prospect and missed the 2016 season after Tommy John surgery, but he returned to Rookie ball last year, showcasing his fastball that can reach 100 mph to go along with his plus slider and plus curveball. Graterol is still a work in progress and is likely to see action at Class A Cedar Rapids this year, but he could shoot up prospect lists with another strong year.