Twins' potential WC roster coming into focus

Sano's health remains biggest question if Minnesota secures Wild Card spot

September 25th, 2017

CLEVELAND -- The Twins haven't punched their ticket to the postseason just yet, but they're in good shape after a four-game sweep over the Tigers that has their magic number down to two with six games remaining.

Twins manager Paul Molitor admitted it's hard not to think ahead about a potential playoff roster, but he says they're not to the point where they're discussing it with the front office yet.

"It's kind of a Catch-22, where it's almost unavoidable to have that spinning in the back of your mind with what you're going to do and what kind of questions you're going to need to answer," Molitor said. "But it shouldn't be your priority. I think if we get the chance to assemble a postseason roster, we'll have time whenever that might come. Again, cart before the horse deal, but there shouldn't be too many tough decisions once we get to that point. Maybe a couple."

With the Twins in American League Wild Card contention after the Indians won the AL Central handily, they'll have to first come up with a roster for a potential Wild Card Game that will very likely be against the Yankees. If Minnesota wins, it will have more decisions about its AL Division Series roster. Here's a look at the club's Top 5 roster decisions heading into the postseason.

1. Will be ready to play?

Sano has been out since Aug. 19 with a stress reaction to his left shin, and his recovery has been taking longer than expected. Sano was the club's best power hitter before the injury, batting .267/.356/.514 with 28 homers and 77 RBIs in 111 games. But he hasn't been taking batting practice on the field or running in the past week, which makes his return doubtful. He also hasn't seen any live pitching since suffering the injury. There remains a chance he could be ready for a potential Division Series, but playing in the Wild Card Game seems unlikely.

2. Which starters would join in New York?

The Twins are moving up Santana to start on regular rest against the Indians on Thursday to line him up to start the AL Wild Card Game on Oct. 3. But teams generally bring another starter or two with them to the Wild Card Game, just in case the starter is ineffective early or gets hurt. Last year, both the Orioles and Blue Jays carried 10 pitchers each, including two extra starting pitchers.

Right-hander is slated to start on Friday against the Tigers, and he would be an option who would be available on short rest in relief. But fellow right-hander is scheduled to start on Saturday, and so he'd only be available for a short stint. Right-hander has struggled recently, while rookie left-hander is untested. Minnesota is likely to bring long reliever , as he's pitched well in that role.

3. What will the bench look like?

If right-hander starts for New York, the Twins are likely to run out a lineup consisting of second baseman , first baseman Joe Mauer, shortstop , left fielder , center fielder , right fielder Max Kepler, third baseman , catcher and designated hitter Robbie Grossman. Kepler is dealing with a left hip injury, but it's considered minor.

That leaves a likely five or six bench spots to fill, with locks including backup catcher Chris Gimenez, infielder/outfielder and DH/pinch hitter . Rookie outfielder would make a lot of sense because of his speed and defense. The only other options on the team are rookies and Niko Goodrum, with Garver getting the edge as a third catcher with power, but both could potentially be on the roster.

4. Which relievers will make the roster?

Minnesota's bullpen has been better in the second half with the emergence of veteran Matt Belisle as the interim closer and rookies and impressing. Gee is a solid bet to make it because he can give them length, while and are expected to be on the roster. has been inconsistent, but he has a good shot and the Twins could use another lefty. Options include , , Nik Turley and former closer . Turley, Perkins and Moya have been used in low-leverage situations down the stretch, giving the edge to Boshers.

5. How would the roster change if the Twins advance to the ALDS?

With Santana starting the Wild Card Game, the Twins would turn to either Berrios or Gibson in Game 1 of the ALDS. Santana wouldn't be on regular rest until the third game of the series. Minnesota would have to decide who its No. 4 starter would be between Colon and Mejia. Colon has struggled in September, while Mejia has pitched OK since coming off a right biceps strain. If it gets to that point, the Twins could always have their Game 1 starter pitch on short rest in Game 4, which might give Gibson the edge to be the Game 1 starter.

Gimenez, Adrianza, Vargas and Granite would be the likely bench players if Minnesota advances, while the Twins would have some decisions to make about their bullpen.