Twins set their 2020 Opening Day roster

July 23rd, 2020

Byron Buxton and Miguel Sanó are both in, and Minnesota's Opening Day roster is complete.

It still remains to be seen whether both of those members of the full-strength Bomba Squad will be fully available when the Twins take the field for Opening Day on Friday night against the White Sox. But it's still a good sign nonetheless that Buxton, on the mend from a left mid-foot sprain, showed manager Rocco Baldelli and the Twins enough progress in his workouts and hitting to warrant his inclusion on the 30-man roster.

Jake Odorizzi's addition to the 10-day injured list opened up room for all three of Randy Dobnak, Devin Smeltzer and Lewis Thorpe to make the 30-man roster, clearing up a potential roster crunch, and the only major surprise was the inclusion of 23-year-old Australian outfielder Aaron Whitefield, who offers little value with the bat, but could make a big difference as a pinch-runner and late-game defensive replacement.

The Twins' 30-man roster included 15 pitchers and 15 position players, though the club will soon need to make room for both Odorizzi (upper back soreness) and Willians Astudillo, who remains in quarantine due to COVID-19 with an uncertain return date. Minnesota, like other teams, will need to condense its roster to 28 players on Aug. 6 and down to 26 players on Aug. 20.

The club's three-man taxi squad also featured two pitchers in addition to third catcher Tomás Telis, Minnesota native Caleb Thielbar, who last appeared with the Twins in 2015, and prospect Jorge Alcala, who dazzled with a steady diet of hard fastballs and hard sliders in Wednesday night's exhibition against the Cubs.

Let's take a deeper look at the first edition of the 2020 Minnesota Twins.

Catchers (2): Mitch Garver, Alex Avila
There won't be a third catcher for now in Astudillo's continued absence, and there may not have been room for one on the Opening Day roster anyway due to the increased depth that could be needed around both the infield and outfield as Sanó and Buxton continue to acclimate to live action. Keep an eye on how Baldelli and his staff split up the duties between Garver, the reigning Silver Slugger Award winner, and his backup, Avila. Though Garver split time more or less equally with Jason Castro last season in the name of rest and recovery, Garver said he hopes to play 40-45 games and wouldn't mind being pushed to 50 games this year.

First base (1): Miguel Sanó
Sanó's bat is still catching up to game speed after he missed the first two weeks of Summer Camp while isolating due to COVID-19, but his glove and physicality appear to be more than ready, as he showcased in a strong defensive performance during Wednesday night's exhibition against the Cubs. Expect Marwin González and Ehire Adrianza to provide some depth here.

Second base (1): Luis Arraez
The 23-year-old doesn't appear to be hampered by the right knee soreness that briefly drew him out of action during an intrasquad game in Summer Camp, and he should be anchored at second base as he hopes to make a bid for a batting title in the shortened 60-game season. After hitting .334 as a rookie last season, that's not out of the realm of possibility.

Shortstop (1): Jorge Polanco
Polanco went on a tear at the plate in the final few intrasquad games of camp and appears to be confident and ready on both sides of the ball after breaking out as the American League's starting shortstop in the All-Star Game last season while playing 153 games, by far the most of anybody on the roster.

Third base (1): Josh Donaldson
There won't be fans in the stands to catch the baseballs that the self-proclaimed "Bringer of Rain" will cause to fall from the sky, but Twins Territory will still, at last, get a chance to see the new $92 million man playing real games in a Minnesota uniform. In addition to the immediate defensive upgrade he has offered at third base, Donaldson has already proved valuable as an on-field leader with his fiery, fun personality and with the hitting knowledge that he and Nelson Cruz bring to the pitching staff and pitching coach Wes Johnson.

Infield depth (2): Ehire Adrianza, Marwin González
There's a good chance that this is one of the strongest benches in the game. Both Adrianza and González could start for most teams in the league, but in Minnesota, they'll be available for Baldelli and his staff to play matchups. Both are switch-hitters with strong versatility. Adrianza figures to be the primary backup at shortstop, while González has the ability to play in the corner outfield but could focus more in the infield this season.

Left field (1): Eddie Rosario
Rosario said that he hopes to take more walks this year in an effort to boost his on-base percentage, and thus, his OPS. Either way, his 32-homer power from last season will still give him plenty of opportunities to drive in runs when he bats in the heart of "Bomba Squad 2.0."

Center field (1): Byron Buxton
There's still no indication as to whether or not Buxton could be a full go by Opening Day as he recovers from a left mid-foot sprain sustained while chasing a fly ball on July 13. Either way, he has been running and hitting and should impact the Twins soon with the much-improved bat that netted a career-high 30 doubles and .827 OPS last season to go with his exemplary defense.

Right field (1): Max Kepler
It was a surprise to see Kepler hitting eighth in Baldelli's lineup against left-handed starter Jon Lester on Wednesday night, but it's also an obscene luxury for the Twins to be able to slot in a hitter coming off a 36-homer, 4.1-WAR season that low in the lineup. He will likely assume leadoff duties on Opening Day against right-hander Lucas Giolito.

Outfield depth (3): Jake Cave, LaMonte Wade Jr., Aaron Whitefield
Cave and Wade both quietly had strong Summer Camps and should provide ample outfield depth as Buxton acclimates back to game speed in the early days of the regular season. Cave is a well-rounded hitter with some pop, but Wade also impressed by showing off hard contact to go with his exemplary eye at the plate. Whitefield is a surprise addition that could give the Twins a significant edge in late-game and extra-innings situations as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement. He stole 115 bases and was caught 33 times in 357 Minor League games.

Designated hitter (1): Nelson Cruz
Cruz homered in three straight games at one point in Summer Camp and finished the training period with extra-base hits in each of the four "true" intrasquad scrimmages that the Twins contested to finish camp. The 40-year-old remains as ready as ever to do damage to baseballs.

Starting pitchers (4): José Berríos, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda, Homer Bailey
Odorizzi isn't expected to be absent for long due to the intermittent stiffness and soreness in his upper back that flared up towards the end of camp. The Twins could run with four starters in their first trip through the rotation and insert Odorizzi without issue during the first homestand if they so desired. Either way, the addition of veterans Hill and Maeda should provide an immediate upgrade in the middle of the rotation, and the Twins are still optimistic that once Bailey finds his groove, he'll have the success he did with the A's towards the end of 2019.

Relief pitchers (11): Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Trevor May, Sergio Romo, Tyler Clippard, Zack Littell, Cody Stashak, Matt Wisler, Randy Dobnak, Devin Smeltzer, Lewis Thorpe
There was no need to pick and choose between Dobnak, Smeltzer and Thorpe as long relief/swingman options after all due to Odorizzi being placed on the IL. Any one could feasibly make a spot start in Odorizzi's place if necessary. Similarly, the expanded rosters also made room for all of Littell, Stashak and Wisler to make the team behind the core five of Rogers, Duffey, May, Romo and Clippard, who all experienced considerable success in 2019.

Taxi squad (3): Jorge Alcala, Tomás Telis, Caleb Thielbar
Telis is an MLB veteran that can step in as catching depth wherever necessary, while Alcala and Thielbar give the Twins both a right-handed and left-handed option to add to the pitching depth in case of emergency. Thielbar was with the Twins as a reliever from 2013-15, but hasn't appeared in an MLB game since. Alcala is ranked the No. 25 prospect in the organization, per MLB Pipeline, and got a cup of coffee in the Majors last September.

10-day IL (2): Jake Odorizzi, Willians Astudillo
Odorizzi's absence isn't expected to last long, and he is tentatively scheduled to throw a bullpen session towards the end of the Twins' first series of the regular season. Astudillo missed all of Summer Camp due to COVID-19, and even when he's cleared, there will likely be a ramp-up period before he's ready for action.

Restricted list (2): Michael Pineda, Fernando Romero
Pineda has 36 games left to serve on his suspension and will continue to work at the club's alternate training site at CHS Field in St. Paul, Minn., until he is eligible for reinstatement at the end of August. Romero was unable to return to the United States during Spring Training due to visa issues.