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Gonsalves, Slegers get nod for spring openers

MLB.com @RhettBollinger

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Twins manager Paul Molitor announced his starters for the early part of Spring Training on Tuesday, as left-hander Stephen Gonsalves will start on Thursday night against the University of Minnesota at Hammond Stadium while right-hander Aaron Slegers gets the nod in the Grapefruit League opener against the Red Sox at JetBlue Park on Friday afternoon.

Additionally, left-hander Adalberto Mejia will start against the Orioles in Sarasota on Saturday, while right-hander Kyle Gibson will take the mound in the Hammond Stadium opener against the Rays on Sunday.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Twins manager Paul Molitor announced his starters for the early part of Spring Training on Tuesday, as left-hander Stephen Gonsalves will start on Thursday night against the University of Minnesota at Hammond Stadium while right-hander Aaron Slegers gets the nod in the Grapefruit League opener against the Red Sox at JetBlue Park on Friday afternoon.

Additionally, left-hander Adalberto Mejia will start against the Orioles in Sarasota on Saturday, while right-hander Kyle Gibson will take the mound in the Hammond Stadium opener against the Rays on Sunday.

The Twins don't plan to play any regulars in Thursday's exhibition game, and Gonsalves will be followed by Myles Jaye, Zack Littell, Lewis Thorpe, Jake Reed and Michael Kohn. Prospects such as shortstop Nick Gordon and outfielder LaMonte Wade are expected to play and will be joined by several non-roster invitees and Minor Leaguers.

Video: Top Prospects: Nick Gordon, SS, Twins

"I don't think there are going to be a lot of household names out there on Thursday," Molitor said. "A few things influence that. We're short a few position players getting started. We're going to ease in Miggy [Sano], [Brian] Dozier is still out and Joe [Mauer] doesn't usually play the first week or so. So I have to come up with lineups in the other games that include the mandates for the amount of regulars."

As Molitor noted, Sano will miss roughly the first week of games to work on his conditioning as he returns from shin surgery. But Sano has been hitting without any issues, crushing several homers out of Hammond Stadium during batting practice. Dozier remains sidelined with a kidney stone but should return in the coming days.

As for the rotation, Gonsalves and Slegers are expected to open the year at Triple-A Rochester after the Twins acquired depth by trading for right-hander Jake Odorizzi and signing Anibal Sanchez to a one-year deal. With Molitor leaning toward opening with a four-man rotation, it appears to leave just one rotation spot up for grabs with Jose Berrios, Gibson and Odorizzi considered locks.

Video: Anibal Sanchez, Twins agree on one-year deal

Sanchez has to earn that spot to earn his $2.5 million non-guaranteed contract, and his top competition appears to be right-hander Phil Hughes and left-hander Adalberto Mejia with right-hander Tyler Duffey more on the periphery. Hughes threw a live bullpen session on Tuesday and has to prove he's healthy after a second surgery to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome. Mejia made the Opening Day roster with a strong spring last year and the Twins remain high on him after he posted a 4.50 ERA in 21 starts as a rookie.

"You guys heard me last year, I like Mejia," Molitor said. "He went through some growing pains. The strike ability we saw in spring kind of waned so he became more of a pitch-count guy. So he needs to attack rather than trick people and trust gameplans a little bit better."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

As for acquiring outside pitching help, the Twins are monitoring the free-agent market with starters such as Lance Lynn, Alex Cobb and Jake Arrieta still available. But unless the prices drop, the Twins aren't actively looking to sign another starter.

Twins tidbits
• The Twins held their second day of live bullpen sessions with several pitchers throwing to hitters for the first time such as Rule 5 pick Tyler Kinley, Hughes and Slegers. Kinley is competing for a spot in the bullpen.

• Odorizzi and Sanchez threw their first bullpen sessions since joining the Twins on Tuesday. They'll face hitters in live batting practice before pitching in Grapefruit League action.

• Moving right-hander Trevor May to the 60-day disabled list doesn't affect his timeline for returning to the Twins, as he's expected to be ready by late May or early June. May is eligible to be activated from the 60-day DL on May 28.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

Minnesota Twins, Stephen Gonsalves, Aaron Slegers