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Twins mull over options for final roster spots

Gardenhire's desire for 'interchangeable bench' to affect ultimate decision

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- It should be an interesting final week in Twins camp, as the club still has several roster decisions to make before the regular season begins on March 31 against the White Sox in Chicago.

One thing is for sure, however, as the Twins will start the season with 12 pitchers, which leaves manager Ron Gardenhire with four bench players.

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But Gardenhire said decisions haven't been made on those bench spots, even though he hinted toward keeping catcher Josmil Pinto, catcher/outfielder Chris Herrmann, infielder Eduardo Escobar and outfielder Alex Presley.

"It's so up in the air," Gardenhire said. "We've had so many inconsistent performances. And even the guys who have hit the ball decent, does it work? We can't just be a team with a right-hander off the bench. We don't have that luxury. We don't have a good enough offense to do that. So what we need is interchangeable pieces."

Gardenhire, though, did provide some clarity on the center-field competition, as it appears Aaron Hicks will be the club's Opening Day center fielder over Presley.

"Hicksie is probably going to be in center," Gardenhire said. "He's been running the ball down pretty good."

But first baseman Chris Colabello and first baseman/outfielder Chris Parmelee could be the odd men out, as non-roster invitee Jason Kubel is expected to make the club as a designated hitter and backup outfielder. Parmelee is also out of Minor League options so he'd have to be placed on waivers before being sent to Triple-A.

Gardenhire said that the Twins are simply looking for more versatility off their bench, which gives a leg up to Herrmann, who can catch and play the outfield.

"Everybody forgets about that guy, but he's pretty good," Gardenhire said. "He's an interchangeable part we're discussing. His swing has gotten better, and he's gotten better all around."

If Herrmann makes the roster, it would also allow the Twins to use Pinto as a right-handed DH, because they'd have three catchers on the roster with Kurt Suzuki as the starter.

"What we need is an interchangeable bench," Gardenhire said. "We need guys who can move all over the place. We don't have the prototypical right-handed guy who can come off the bench and hit a three-run homer. We might have a guy who might be able to do that like Colabello. And Parmelee might. But are they interchangeable? Can we put them in left, right and center? So I'm looking at the people here in camp who are interchangeable like what they have in Tampa [Bay]."

The Twins also have decisions to make with their pitching staff, although right-hander Kyle Gibson has emerged as the front-runner for the fifth spot in the rotation over left-hander Scott Diamond, with Samuel Deduno heading to the bullpen as a long reliever.

Closer Glen Perkins, Jared Burton, Brian Duensing, Casey Fien and Anthony Swarzak all seem to be locks in the bullpen, along with Deduno, which would leave one open spot.

The Twins could decide to keep Diamond as a reliever because he's out of options, or they could turn to left-hander Caleb Thielbar or right-hander Michael Tonkin, who have both been solid this spring. Right-hander Ryan Pressly, who had a strong rookie year as a Rule 5 pick last year, isn't expected to make the team.

Right-hander Matt Guerrier also has to be notified by Tuesday if he'll make the club, and he will receive a $100,000 retention bonus if he doesn't. But Guerrier, who is coming off surgery to fix the flexor mass in his right elbow, is willing to pitch at Triple-A if he doesn't make the team. Guerrier also has a June 1 out-clause. Kubel also has to be notified about his roster status by Tuesday, but he is expected to be added to the roster.

Infielder Jason Bartlett, who is also a veteran non-roster invitee, is not due a $100,000 retention bonus, because he was out of baseball last year. He has an out-clause he can exercise at the end of spring, but he has just two hits in Grapefruit League play, and seems willing to play at Triple-A in the short term if he doesn't make the team.

So there are still several variables still in play this week, and the Twins coaching staff and front office will continue to meet all week to discuss their options.

"Ideally, you'd like to have things set, but obviously you can look at each scenario in a different way," Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said. "Everybody has different opinions, and we can hash over all the options and make our decisions."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger.

Minnesota Twins, Eduardo Escobar, Chris Herrmann, Aaron Hicks, Jason Kubel, Josmil Pinto, Alex Presley