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On Sunday morning, the Twins decided to option Anthony Slama, Jim Hoey and Luke Hughes to Rochester. In doing so, the 25 man roster is set. Jeff Manship and Matt Tolbert make the Opening Day roster. The only thing to determine yet is whether or not Scott Diamond will be sent back to the Braves or if the teams can work out a trade. Of course, it is also possible that he could be claimed by another team.
Minnesota Twins Opening Day Roster
Starting Pitchers: Carl Pavano, Francisco Liriano, Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker, Brian Duensing
Relief Pitchers: Joe Nathan, Matt Capps, Jose Mijares, Dusty Hughes, Kevin Slowey, Glen Perkins and Jeff Manship.
Catchers: Joe Mauer, Drew Butera
Infielders: Justin Morneau, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Alexi Casilla, Danny Valencia, Matt Tolbert
Outfielders: Michael Cuddyer, Denard Span, Delmon Young, Jason Repko
Designated Hitters: Jason Kubel, Jim Thome
That’s it! That is the Twins Opening Day roster barring any injury. It looks like a pretty solid roster to me.
Anthony Slama has been hurt most of spring training, so it is no surprise that he is being sent to Rochester to start the season. I believe, if healthy, he would likely be on the Opening Day roster. However, it will be good for him to ease back into pitching before he is ready to contribute for the Twins. Manship showed ups and downs this spring, but there is no doubt that he has enough stuff to be a quality major league reliever. He has been a starter throughout his minor league career, but between a 92 mph fastball, a terrific changeup and an excellent curveball, the comparisons to Matt Guerrier certainly make sense. It will, however, be a different role for him. Instead of getting ready to start every fifth day, he will likely be used in the 7th inning. The Twins likely won’t throw him into the more high-leverage, late-inning situations. That’s what Matt Capps and Jose Mijares are for. But Manship will need to get outs in the 7th, sometimes in big situations. Hoey throws hard, no question. He walked a bunch early in spring, but he had just one walk in his final five outings.
Bullpen Analysis: The Twins really like Manship and see a high deal of potential with him in the role. There are a lot of question marks in the back end of the bullpen due to lack of big league time or bullpen experience. However, they have a lot of arms, a lot of arms with great stuff. Glen Perkins is out of options. There are currently three left-handers. Kevin Slowey provides a guy who can give innings. What is exciting is that if anyone really struggles, there are options in Rochester. Slama could be ready soon, and Hoey may be the first guy to be promoted. Kyle Waldrop is not on the roster, but clearly the Twins really like him. Likewise, Carlos Gutierrez isn’t on the 40 man roster, but he has incredible upside in the bullpen and will likely have a big impact in the season’s second half. And too many people are forgetting about Alex Burnett who is still young and has very good stuff.
The big talker among Twins fans has been who will be the Twins utility infielder. Would it be Matt Tolbert or Luke Hughes? Matt Tolbert is a line drive hitter with little power who generally takes good at bats and plays some good defense at all four infield positions. Luke Hughes led the Twins in home runs and RBI this spring, but also in at bats. In the end, Hughes made the decision very easy for Ron Gardenhire. Had the decision been made two weeks ago, there was a shot that Hughes could have made the roster, but he has really struggled with the bat the last week to ten days. He had just three hits in his last 30 at bats (although two of them were home runs). Hitting is his thing, and specifically, he provides power from the right side of the plate. Note that he struck out 17 times this spring with just two walks and an OPS well below the .300 mark. He could play four infield positions, and Gardy even gave him opportunities at shortstop.
I am not a big Matt Tolbert backer at all. He is not great defensively at any of those four positions, although he is solid. He is so rigid and uptight, and he probably would be better if he just relaxed. But I do think that this the right decision for the team. I would love to see Luke Hughes on this roster because his right-handed power is terrific.
Infield Analysis: Had Justin Morneau not been able to start the season on the active list, Hughes probably makes the roster. However, there are question marks and guys getting opportunities around the rest of the infield. Danny Valencia had a huge impact in the second half of the Twins and it will be interesting to see how the league adjusts to him, and more importantly, how he adjusts back to the rest of the league. Alexi Casilla is very talented, and he is being given another opportunity as a starter. Maybe his last opportunity. Tsuyoshi Nishioka showed in spring training that he can be very solid, but the regular season will create new challenges. However, to be fair, each of them should get at least six to eight weeks of playing nearly every day to see where they are at. That means less playing time for the utility guy, and that suits Tolbert better in that he is a little better with the glove than Hughes. Hughes can go back to Rochester and play nearly every day. Hopefully he stays healthy.
Spring Training Analysis: I say frequently that spring training play means very little to who makes the opening day roster. We saw it last year in the Wilson Ramos/Drew Butera decision. This year, it is clear that Tolbert and Manship were the guys that had the first opportunity to make the roster. It would have taken a lot to beat either of them out of a spot. Hughes was terrific through the first two weeks, but his late struggles meant that Tolbert would get the utility job to start the season. Manship wasn’t great in the spring, but none of the other options stood out enough to move ahead of him. That doesn’t mean that spring training means nothing. Heading into spring, the assumption was that Trevor Plouffe might have an outside shot at the utility infield job. He struggled and Hughes showed off him power. If the Twins have a need early in the season, Hughes’ spring impression likely means he is the first player to be promoted. Likewise, there are still several questions at the back of the Twins bullpen. Hoey showed a lot, but so did Kyle Waldrop. An open 40 man roster spot, so it would not be surprising if he Waldrop debuts with the Twins early in the season. What Carlos Gutierrez did this spring has to have the Twins brass excited for what he can do. Now he needs to work out the final kinks in Rochester.
The Twins play at noon today against the Pirates. After the game, the team will fly to Atlanta and play the Braves in two exhibition games. On Thursday, the team will travel to Toronto, and on Friday, Opening Night will be here!
Last night, I hosted the SethSpeaks.net Sunday Night Twins podcast with guest Dan Wade (of TwinsMVB.com). It was a fun discussion of the Twins entire roster and many of the decisions that have been made.
If you like, please feel free to comment.