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Twins' 25-man roster officially set

New sluggers Cruz, Cron, Gonzalez ease blow of injuries
March 27, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS -- Reliever Ryne Harper has made the team as the final member of the Twins' bullpen and shortstop Jorge Polanco is expected to play on Opening Day after a successful workout in Minneapolis on Wednesday, according to chief baseball officer Derek Falvey, meaning that the Twins' 25-man roster is

MINNEAPOLIS -- Reliever Ryne Harper has made the team as the final member of the Twins' bullpen and shortstop Jorge Polanco is expected to play on Opening Day after a successful workout in Minneapolis on Wednesday, according to chief baseball officer Derek Falvey, meaning that the Twins' 25-man roster is finally set as they prepare for their opener against the Indians at Target Field on Thursday.

"I'm certainly glad everyone tracked healthy up north for the most part," Falvey said. "We had some setbacks during the course of Spring Training, but very few, relatively speaking. I feel good about the group that's going to get on the field tomorrow."

Faced with an unorthodox opening schedule of five off-days within the first 15 days of the season and a National League East road trip, manager Rocco Baldelli and the Twins will respond in kind with an unusual roster composition, as they will carry only 11 pitchers on their Opening Day roster, with an expanded five-man bench.

Here's a look at the 25 players that are slated to begin the 2019 season with the team:

Catcher (2): Jason Castro, Mitch Garver

Castro is fully healthy and ready to assume the starting catcher's role again after recovering from a tear to the meniscus in his right knee. Garver has worked hard on his defense this offseason with Minor League catching coordinator Tanner Swanson, and he has been pleased with his progress in blocking, throwing and receiving. The versatile Willians Astudillo should also factor in as a third catcher, which could allow the Twins to use Garver at designated hitter at times.

First base (2): C.J. Cron, Tyler Austin

The Twins' decision to carry only 11 pitchers on their Opening Day roster created an opening for Austin, whose roster spot appeared to be in jeopardy when the Twins acquired Cron, Nelson Cruz and Marwin Gonzalez during the offseason and spring. Austin should serve as the backup first baseman while Gonzalez starts at third in Miguel Sanó's absence.

Second base (1): Jonathan Schoop

The Twins feel confident that Schoop is due for a bounceback season after a full recovery from a strained oblique that sidelined him for nearly a month last year and resulted in subtle changes to his swing mechanics. He'll be backed up by Ehire Adrianza, Gonzalez, and on occasion, Astudillo.

Third base (1): Marwin Gonzalez

Gonzalez will be the regular third baseman until Sano's expected return in May, with Astudillo and Adrianza also able to man the hot corner if the Twins choose to use Gonzalez's versatility around the diamond at times.

Shortstop (1): Jorge Polanco

Polanco served an 80-game suspension last season for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance before continuing his upward trajectory at the plate. He signed a five-year extension this spring, and he is expected to return to the starting lineup after dealing with shoulder fatigue toward the end of Spring Training. Adrianza and Gonzalez will back him up.

Outfield (4): Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Jake Cave

Buxton had a torrid spring at the plate after adding 21 pounds during the offseason, leading the Twins in homers, RBIs and OPS, while Kepler also hit three spring homers after being installed as the Twins' leadoff hitter. Cave, who hit 13 homers in 91 games last season, should slot in as the team's fourth outfielder through at least Sano's return.

Utility (2): Willians Astudillo, Ehire Adrianza

Astudillo has seen time at catcher, third base, second base and left field in Spring Training, and he could have value through both his versatility and his unique contact ability as a hitter, as he completed Grapefruit League play without a strikeout or a walk in 49 at-bats. Adrianza's right-handed swing is back after his recovery from an offseason shoulder surgery, and he can slot in at second, third, shortstop and left field.

Designated hitter (1): Nelson Cruz

Cruz leads baseball with 203 homers in the past five years, and he also ranks third behind only Nolan Arenado and Edwin Encarnacion with 522 RBIs in that span. He should earn the majority of starts at designated hitter, while Austin and Rosario could also fill in where needed.

Starting pitcher (4): José Berríos, Jake Odorizzi, Michael Pineda, Kyle Gibson

The Twins will use a four-man rotation through the first three weeks of the season due to the frequent off-days, with Martin Perez expected to pitch out of the bullpen until Minnesota first needs a fifth starter on April 16. Gibson was the starting rotation's leader in innings, quality starts and ERA last season, but the Twins will move him to the back of the rotation in part to give him some extra time to recover from the E. coli illness that disrupted his conditioning in January.

Bullpen (7): Trevor May, Taylor Rogers, Blake Parker, Trevor Hildenberger, Ryne Harper, Martín Pérez, Adalberto Mejía

Fernando Romero was optioned to Triple-A Rochester after a pair of wild outings to gain more relief experience, while Addison Reed, Matt Magill and Gabriel Moya will all begin the season on the injured list. Those injuries cleared an unlikely path for non-roster pitcher Harper to make the first Opening Day roster of his career after he struck out 14 without allowing a walk or earned run this spring. May, Rogers, Parker and Hildenberger will be the Twins' core relievers out of the bullpen, and Baldelli has said that he expects to remain flexible with their usage at the start of the season.

So, barring any unforeseen major developments, here's the presumptive Opening Day roster for the 2019 Minnesota Twins:

Jason Castro
Mitch Garver
Willians Astudillo

C.J. Cron
Jonathan Schoop
Jorge Polanco
Marwin Gonzalez
Tyler Austin
Ehire Adrianza

Eddie Rosario
Byron Buxton
Max Kepler
Jake Cave

Nelson Cruz

Jose Berrios
Jake Odorizzi
Michael Pineda
Kyle Gibson

Trevor May
Taylor Rogers
Blake Parker
Trevor Hildenberger
Ryne Harper
Martin Perez
Adalberto Mejía

Matt Magill
Gabriel Moya
Addison Reed
Miguel Sanó

Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.