Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Twins Spring Training Decision Time

The Twins on Monday whittled their roster from 59 down to 45 players. Most of which never had a realistic chance of making the team, at least for this year. One exception to that in the first round of cuts is pitcher Kyle Gibson who is ready to make the jump to the major leagues. The starting rotation at this time is very crowded however and the Twins have decisions to make regarding the future of those players. The 2 starters on the bubble right now are Scott Baker, who at one point was at the top of the rotation, and Kevin Slowey who has battled inconsistency throughout his career.

Baker has had some injury concerns of late and he has yet to regain his form, when healthy he is consistent and dependable but not overpowering. Slowey on the other hand has good stuff but has never been able to harness it and pitch within himself, and it is believed he has been a dissapointment to manager Ron Gardenhire. Slowey at the beginning of spring training was believed to be the odd man out with his best hope being a move to the bullpen. In fact in recent weeks he has been the subject of trade rumors, with Toronto believed to be an interested suitor.

This spring however Slowey has had good command and has impressed, making the final starting position a difficult decision or helping his trade value depending on the Twins outlook for his future. Once these final decisions are made, it doesn't get any easier for the survivor and the rest of the staff because Kyle Gibson will be pushing them and is all but guaranteed a call up in 2011.

The tough decisions do not stop there either as the competition for the bullpen is very crowded and likely to go down to the wire. One of the odd men out in that battle appears to be veteran LHP Glenn Perkins who is out of options. With recent trades and fellow LHP Dusty Hughes being acquired on waivers from KC his days appear to be numbered. He has been in the Twins doghouse the last couple seasons and really has done nothing to redeem himself or make their decision difficult.

One final area on the team where a battle appears to be heating up is the middle infield. Luke Hughes has been knocking the stuffing out of the ball and has been very serviceable in the field. While it appears that the starting SS will be Tsuyoshi Nishioka and 2nd Alexi Casilla, both are relatively unproven commodities with Casilla yet to show he can be consistent. That leads to the need for depth and with Matt Tolbert the penciled in utility infielder, confidence is not high. Tolbert has had his moments but he is not exactly running out of tape on his highlight reel. Additionally his strength with a bat leaves a lot to be desired which reduces bench options for late inning situations. This brings us back to Hughes maybe having played himself onto the opening day 25 man roster. Tolbert does have an option year left making that decision even easier as there is no risk of losing him this season if his services are needed later.

Many roster cuts remain and there could end up being even more surprises including the potential for trades. With players down to their last option year, out of options, potential contract issues on the horizon, and younger guys ready to step up and claim jobs, 2011 could prove to be an active year for the Twins.

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