Mid-Spring Assessment

According to my count, looking at the spring game schedule, today’s game marked the midpoint of spring games. So it seems a logical time to do an assessment of how things are going so far and who might be winning the “open” spots on the 25-man roster.

One of the overall positives to note is the relative health of the team. Other than one notable exception, the loss of Joel Zumaya, the Twins have had only minor bumps and bruises so far. The latest is Trevor Plouffe’s slight strain of a hamstring that Terry Ryan says is not serious. He may miss only a couple of days. Especially positive is the fact that Mauer and Morneau have been healthy and available without any known setbacks.

A second positive to note has been the number of relief pitchers stepping up, pitching well and making it a difficult decision as to which ones will make the team going north.

Also, some of the younger players who will almost certainly begin the season at Rochester, have played well giving some hope for the future, and maybe more importantly  to Red Wings fans, giving the AAA team some roster strength that will allow them to be more competitive at least, if not playoff contenders.

On the less positive side, Tsuyoshi Nishioka is not impressing anyone yet. Sports beat-writers covering the Twins this spring have reported that he is making progress in work with coaches, but so far that is not translating to play in games. They also have noted the absence of any talk from the Twins about where he might end up if not on the opening day roster. It is as if that subject is taboo, at least for now.

Biggest surprise so far? The hitting of non-roster invitee infielder Mike Hollimon. It would be a real long-shot for him to make the big club, but he certainly has solidified his utility-man status for Rochester.

Most concerning so far? Starting pitching. While it is encouraging that Nick Blackburn and Francisco Liriano have done well and appear to be on track to be ready for the season, Jason Marquis has not looked good and Scott Baker has a tender elbow that has pushed back his next start. If it flairs up again, he probably will be on the DL to open the season.

Roster spot battles at this point look to be – third catcher, middle infielder/utility player, and bullpen. I’m still projecting Drew Butera and Nishioka, mostly by default, but have revised my ideas on the bullpen based on some good work by some of the pitchers signed during the off season.

Here is my latest opening-day roster projection.

Everyday lineup:

  • C Joe Mauer
  • 1B Justin Morneau
  • 2B Alexi Casilla
  • SS Jamey Carroll
  • 3B Danny Valencia
  • LF Ben Revere/Trevor Plouffe
  • CF Denard Span
  • RF Josh Willingham
  • DH Ryan Doumit

Bench:

  • C Drew Butera
  • INF Luke Hughes
  • INF Tsuyoshi Nishioka
  • OF Trevor Plouffe/Ben Revere

Pitchers:

  • S Carl Pavano
  • S Scott Baker
  • S Francisco Liriano
  • S Nick Blackburn
  • S Jason Marquis
  • Long Relief Anthony Swarzak
  • Closer Matt Capps
  • LHP Brian Duensing
  • LHP Glen Perkins
  • LHP Matt Maloney

and two of the following three:

  • RHP Jared Burton
  • RHP Kyle Waldrop
  • RHP Jeff Manship
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