- Sean Connery as Jim Malone in The Untouchables
The Twins schedule has necessitated keeping the clubhouse pretty crowded so far in spring training. But even if the schedule cooperates there are enough questions still unanswered that a padded roster would make sense.About the only question that seems to be answered is who the starting shortstop will be. Manager Paul Molitor says he still wants the competition between Danny Santana and Eduardo Escobar to play out, but all indications are that it will be Santana. Escobar has continued to hit well, but so has Santana and the Twins want his athleticism in the lineup. Furthermore, Molitor says he hasn’t considered moving Santana back to center field.
This brings up the other positional battle that was supposed to sort itself out this spring. It hasn’t. “I don’t think anybody has really separated from the pack. We’ve got time to sort it out. I think it’s safe to say it’s wide open,” Terry Ryan summarized before today’s game. Molitor was even more blunt when asked if he had a better feel about what he was going to do about center field. “No,” he simply replied.
The Twins keep giving the four candidates opportunities. Each has found himself starting in center field at least once over the last four days. Eddie Rosario started there on Thursday, but was relegated to corner spots Saturday and Sunday while Shane Robinson and Jordan Schafer got the starts in center. Hicks also received two starts, one on Friday and one on Saturday.
Entering today, the one with the highest batting average was Robinson at .269 – but his career average in the majors is just .231 and he’s 30 years old. The fact that he’s still even in camp tells you all you need to know about the rest of the candidates.
Of course, there are a lot of guys in camp, and that has something to do with the schedule. The Twins had a split-squad on Saturday and have three-hour bus drives on Sunday and Monday. Generally, those long trips have a minimal veteran presence, so it’s not too surprising that the Twins are keeping some warm bodies around.
An extra body or two might be necessary for the final roster, too. One option the Twins have at least considered for center field is a platoon, but it doesn’t sound like they’re too excited about it. “That’s not ideal,” says Ryan. He added, “But if you have to, you have to.”
If the Twins have to, they could try a platoon a couple of different ways. Half of the platoon could be Jordan Schafer, who bats left-handed and has a career on-base percentage of .328 against right-handers. I supposed it could also be Eddie Rosario, who also bats left-handed, but I presume the Twins would rather he play every day in the minors.
The other side is more problematic. Robinson hits right-handed, though his performance against any pitcher with hands has been pretty anemic in the majors. But he would be the short side of the platoon and could also serve as a defensive late-inning specialist in either of the corners.
Or the Twins could try Hicks, who is a switch-hitter but has really only hit southpaws. (And he has hit them well; he has a 758 OPS over 127 at-bats in his career.) But again, unless the Twins want him to acclimate himself to the majors or want Torii Hunter to mentor him, he would probably be better off playing every day in Rochester.
The Twins also still have a question as to who will be their fifth starter, courtesy of Trevor Mays’ excellent outing yesterday. “I was impressed,” Ryan reflected today. “As was everybody that saw that.” But Ryan wasn’t sure what was in store for Mays, or even if he would have another start scheduled for this spring.
If the Twins want to see more of him, they’re going to need to make a decision fairly soon since both May’s and Tommy Milone’s next turn in the rotation will be Thursday, and there is no split squad this time to help them out. Only one can get that start at JetBlue Park and whoever it is will need to be further stretched to close to 80 pitches. But of course, Mike Pelfrey is also in the discussion. Wait. Watch.
Finally, a new question was raised, courtesy of Adam Jones' bat. Jones hit catcher Josmil Pinto in the head three times in one at-bat on his backswing and the backstop then came out of yesterday’s game. Molitor characterized Pinto as “dizzy” and Ryan used the term “groggy”, and today Pinto didn’t feel quite right. Ryan labeled the injury as “concussion-like symptoms” but said the CT scan was negative and they would need to wait a few days before they officially diagnosed it as a concussion.
Either way, Pinto will be held out of baseball-related activities for a few days, which could open up the backup catcher roster spot for Chris Herrmann or Eric Fryer. More waiting and watching.
The Twins would like to spend the last week playing their regulars, which really only gives them another week to make some final decisions. Molitor, Ryan and staff met for a 40-minute meeting yesterday to talk about how the roster might take shape. “We’re going to keep gathering information in the near term before we finalize what we want to do,” said Molitor.
So there is still a little time left to wait. And to want. And to see what does happen. Both for their Twins and their fans.
Twins 5, Marlins 3
The Twins beat the Marlins in Jupiter on Sunday, fueled by a potent top of the lineup.
- Phil Hughes started, went 4.2 innings, gave up three runs, walked two, struck out four, and then gave such an insightful and entertaining postgame interview that I may need to write it up word for word later this week.
- Tim Stauffer relieved Hughes in the fifth and ended the inning with one pitch. He gave up a couple of hits but no runs the next inning.
- Caleb Thielbar threw a couple of innings, got two strikeouts but walked one. Molitor was impressed with the depth of his curveball.
- Casey Fien closed it out.
- Danny Santana led off, went 4-5 and darn near beat out the ground ball on which he was thrown out.
- Jordan Schafer hit second and had three hits with two RBI. Yes, mostly it was against right-handed pitchers, but he got a hit against southpaw swingman Brad Hand in the 8th.
- Eddie Rosario went 1-5, but hit the ball well.
- Trevor Plouffe also got a couple of hits and a walk, raising his batting average this spring to .200. He also was moved from third to first base late in the game. Molitor said he made that move to give Plouffe some experience over there.
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