7 items to consider as camp nears end for Twins

Chief baseball officer Falvey looks ahead to regular season

March 20th, 2019

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- As the Twins' first Spring Training under manager Rocco Baldelli draws to a close, chief baseball officer Derek Falvey sat down with the media on Wednesday afternoon to reflect on developments from the spring and discuss the players who will head north to Minneapolis next week to begin the regular season.

Here are seven takeaways from Falvey's media session as the Twins' roster continues to trim down and take shape in preparation for next Thursday's Opening Day matchup against the Indians at Target Field.

1. The Twins could eventually settle on one closer
Although Baldelli has shied away from naming a closer or discussing the specifics of his planned bullpen usage, Falvey said that Baldelli and pitching coach Wes Johnson have already had conversations with the team's back-end relievers -- Trevor May, Blake Parker, Trevor Hildenberger and Taylor Rogers -- to give them an idea of where in games they will pitch this season.

Some teams are opting to forgo the closer role altogether and play matchups out of the bullpen, but Falvey said that the Twins could end up settling on one person for the role.

"A few of our guys know they’re going to pitch in the back end of games, and that could eventually evolve into a more set person as we go," Falvey said. "But as it stands right today, I don’t think Rocco is ready to name that. I’m comfortable with that if he is."

2. But Romero will not be the closer
Fernando Romero had garnered buzz throughout the offseason as a possible closing option, especially once the Twins committed to using him as a reliever this spring, but Falvey said that Romero will likely pitch in a multi-inning role for now as the 24-year-old right-hander continues to develop as a pitcher.

"I don't know that we were viewing him as the back-end guy right at the outset," Falvey said. "A lot of people think he has the stuff for it and the ability. I think you grow into those roles."

The organization's former No. 4 prospect had a 4.69 ERA in 11 starts for the Twins last season. He has struggled in his past two outings this spring in particular, walking five without a strikeout and allowing nine runs (eight earned) in two-thirds of an inning.

"He still has development left, and being able to rein it all in at different times is a key next step for him," Falvey said. "We'll continue to put him in positions to be able to do that."

3. Reed is a work in progress
Addison Reed was one of the Twins' most reliable relievers early last season after signing a two-year, $16.75 million contract, but he had a 6.26 ERA from June through the end of the season, with 15 strikeouts and seven home runs allowed. His struggles have continued into the spring, when he has allowed 10 runs in 5 1/3 innings.

"I think there has been some challenge in making some adjustments that he's had to make," Falvey said. "Addison has been around a long time. He's a veteran guy. We are trying to work with him around what those changes need to be and how we can help him. But he hasn't quite hit his stride the way we hope he will. We will just continue to work with him on it."

Falvey was noncommittal when asked whether Reed would be on the Opening Day roster.

"At this point, we're still working through our final decisions on our group, so I'm not committing to any of those spots yet," Falvey said. "We're working on it."

4. Moya could start the season on the injured list
Left-hander Gabriel Moya has appeared in only one game this spring -- back on Feb. 23 -- as he has dealt with tightness in his left shoulder. Though MRIs haven't revealed any serious issues, Moya has not started to throw and could be placed on the injured list to start the season.

"With a couple of guys, we’re making sure we’re being a little more conservative rather than aggressive in their throwing," Falvey said.

5. No more extension news yet in Twins camp
The Twins already signed shortstop Jorge Polanco and right fielder Max Kepler to five-year extensions at the start of Spring Training and have other possible extension candidates in Eddie Rosario, Kyle Gibson and Jose Berrios, but Falvey said he had no specific developments to discuss.

"We started some of our conversations earlier probably than the average club, so that may have led to why we had our two guys early," Falvey said. "We were a little bit more proactive in that, but I would just characterize it as continued ongoing discussions with some of our players and nothing really to specifically discuss."

6. Twins still having good at-bats as homer total rises
The Twins finished Wednesday with 44 homers this spring -- trailing only the Yankees -- after adding another on Jonathan Schoop's two-run shot in the sixth against the Pirates. Despite all the homers, Minnesota also has the fourth-fewest strikeouts during spring action.

Though Falvey was unsure which -- or any -- stats might actually correlate to regular-season performance, he highlighted the continued progression of Kepler, the on-base ability of Polanco, the balance in the lineup and the influx of power production as reasons why he's optimistic.

"We knew we were going to have power and we knew we’d have some swing and miss certainly, so I don’t think it changes my perception of what we have going into the season," Falvey said. "I feel pretty good about the collective of the position player group for sure."

7. No, the front office is not scripting bullpen changes
As analytically inclined front offices around baseball have been accused of taking bullpen management out of managers' hands, Falvey asserted that the Twins' front office has left pitching changes to the coaching staff and will continue to provide them the best information possible to make educated decisions.

"I would say there's a growing belief of that, and I would like to see the evidence. I just don't see it," Falvey said. "The goal is to put in the manager's hands the tools that get them a better understanding of maybe how the matchups play objectively. But they've got to make calls at some point.

"We have more tools now to inform our decisions than were available to managers in the past. I bet managers of the past years would have liked to have had those tools then, too, to help inform their gut."