Inbox: Will Astudillo make the team?

Beat reporter Do-Hyoung Park answers questions from fans

March 1st, 2019

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- We're two weeks into Spring Training, and the Twins' first spring under manager Rocco Baldelli has already been eventful in some positive ways. Versatile free agent Marwin Gonzalez arrived in camp on Monday, and the pitching staff has responded well to the new, analytically-minded approach of pitching coach Wes Johnson and assistant pitching coach Jeremy Hefner.

What better time for another edition of the Twins Inbox?

It's not necessarily that he wasn't expected to stand out, but Willians Astudillo got off to a fast start with a pair of homers during his first session of live batting practice, and Baldelli said at that point that Astudillo is at the "forefront" of the Twins' roster conversations as camp wears on.

Astudillo played mainly behind the plate and at third base this spring in Miguel Sano's absence, but he's coming off a strong offseason in the Venezuelan Winter League during which he played a lot of left field and finished as the runner-up in the league's Most Valuable Player Award voting for hitting .325/.370/.500 with 10 homers and 46 RBIs. Since the Twins are going to have a short bench with a roster spot designated for Nelson Cruz, Astudillo's versatility and advancing bat can only help his case to crack the 25-man roster.

Not at this time. It's a good indication when a cut to Sano's ankle is the most major injury news coming out of Twins camp -- and that's not expected to be a long-term issue, either, as both he and head athletic trainer Tony Leo have characterized the wound as being "80 percent" better.

Outside of Sano, the only significant injuries that have been reported this spring have been a sore back for outfielder Michael Reed, who looks to be on the outside of the projected 25-man roster looking in, and a strained right oblique for top prospect Royce Lewis, who is expected to play in Major League Spring Training games before the end of camp.

Right now, it's looking like left-hander Adalberto Mejia is the primary starting-pitching depth in case of injury to a member of the rotation. Baldelli has said that Mejia will be stretched out as a starter early this camp, which would put him in position to step into the rotation if necessary, but also wouldn't preclude him from moving to the bullpen if everyone stays healthy.

The Twins have maintained throughout camp that they expect Fernando Romero to pitch meaningful Major League innings this year, but he's being moved to the bullpen. Kohl Stewart and Stephen Gonsalves could also be considered, but Mejia is out of Minor League options, and the Twins wouldn't want to risk exposing him, a 25-year-old left-hander with decent starting experience, to waivers.

Cruz actually did play last Saturday, when he started at designated hitter in the spring opener against the Rays. But Cruz, at age 38, has been through enough Spring Trainings and knows his body well enough that the Twins aren't too pressed to be overly aggressive with his preparation early in spring. Baldelli called it a "veteran preparation program."

"We'll take advantage of some different kinds of games to let him see as much pitching as he wants in any environment that he really wants," Baldelli said.

Neither has seen much extended action yet, so it's hard to say. Michael Pineda is scheduled to make his spring debut on Friday. Baldelli said that both Kyle Gibson and Jake Odorizzi should make their first starts during the first weekend in March.

I don't pretend to be an expert in lineup construction, but I'll give it a shot. I figure that the bottom part of this lineup (below the cleanup spot) is going to be pretty fluid based on who's taking a rest on any given day, and where Gonzalez would slot into that modified batting order.

But it seems that early on this spring, the Twins are giving Eddie Rosario plenty of looks at the cleanup spot, and Baldelli has been open about how he sees both Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler as hitters that he likes towards the top of the lineup, and both are getting practice hitting leadoff this spring. Some of this might also depend on what the new-look Sano looks like once he's able to play in Spring Training games.

  1. Jorge Polanco SS
  1. Max Kepler RF
  1. Nelson Cruz DH
  1. Eddie Rosario LF
  1. Miguel Sano 3B
  1. C.J. Cron 1B
  1. Jonathan Schoop 2B
  1. Jason Castro C
  1. Byron Buxton CF