Twins Set Opening Day Roster

28 Mar

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

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!

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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.

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6 Responses to “Twins Set Opening Day Roster”

  1. TT March 28, 2011 at 7:48 am #

    I think part of the decision on Hoey and Manship is based on Slowey being able to pitch an inning or two back to back. That means he can pitch later in the game and Manship can take the long relief role. Hoey would have had a better shot if they thought Slowey was limited to long relief.

    The bullpen was a question mark going into spring training and remains one going into the season. But after seeing all these guys in spring training, it still looks like there are a lot of potential answers.

    There is a long list of potential major league pitchers in the bullpen at AAA. The chances are good that one or two of those guys are going to be ready to help if someone on the roster struggles or is hurt.

    I don’t think Hughes every had much of a chance for the utility spot. He is simply not a good enough fielder at any position. If Hughes has a major league role, its going to have to be where his bat can carry him. You don’t choose a utility infielder for home run power. I don’t think you will see him get the call to replace Nishioka or Casilla.

  2. mike wants wins March 28, 2011 at 8:29 am #

    A starting SS for 2 relievers (and $6MM or so) that can’t make the roster when the bullpen is being totally turned over? Didn’t like the trade then, don’t like the trade now. Let’s hope that Casilla can play this year.

    Other than that, no real surprises here. While I vastly prefer Hughes to Tolbert, it is no surprise that the lesser hitter made the roster. I disagree with TT on the role of the bench player here. Neither Casilla or Nishi will be replaced for defense, so you’d want a bench player that can PH for them when you are behind (assuming you’ve used Thome/Kubel or the pitcher is a tough lefty). Tolbert’s primary role, I think, will be to play late in a game when Casilla has been PH for, or to give Valencia or a MIF a day off (probably on a Sunday, when Gardy puts the B roster out there). Hughes could fill that role, while providing some potential for offense on the B roster days. The D would likely be worse, however.

    The starting pitching is pretty nice. I think most teams would be jealous of the depth, if the not the top of the line talent. I think they should be in good shape against most teams, in terms of pitching matchups. I even like the bullpen. I think it has nice balance, and has some decent pitchers. I’d like more strikeout ability there, but if Nathan comes back to form, I think they are more than fine there, probalby back in the top 10 for sure.

    The OF defense remains one of my biggest concerns. I’ve heard Young looks big and slow again, and Cuddy and Kubel have little range even on a good day. Span is a nice CF, but hardly the rangiest. There will be plenty of singles/doubles that a very good defense would turn into outs. While I understand wanting to add speed, I’d have liked it added there. Hopefully Benson or Revere or someone is ready next year, as Kubel will be gone, and Young will be your DH, with Cuddy signed to be the RF for two years. But that’s next year….Hopefully Gardy will use his 4th OFer more in the 8th/9th as a defensive replacement than he did last year.

  3. TT March 28, 2011 at 9:51 am #

    “Neither Casilla or Nishi will be replaced for defense, so you’d want a bench player that can PH for them when you are behind (assuming you’ve used Thome/Kubel or the pitcher is a tough lefty).”

    Who would Thome/Kubel have pinch hit for? The most likely answer is Casilla. If they get on base, you want a pinch runner. With Hughes on the bench, your best option is Repko. Then you need someone to play shortstop. So you put in Hughes as a defensive replacement and move Nishioka over to shortstop. The only way Hughes uses his bat is the next time through the order.

    This may be the best Twins team in a long, long time. They could easily run away with the division.

    • mike wants wins March 28, 2011 at 12:52 pm #

      Given what I expect out of Cuddeyer, I’m expecting him to be PH for occassionally also. But I think we are lucky to be worried about the last guy on the bench, instead of who the 3rd starting pitcher will be, or who the 3B will be…..that said, I think you underestimate the Sox and Tigers. sure, they could run away with the division, but that’s likely, I don’t think. I do think they have a great shot to win it.

      • mike wants wins March 28, 2011 at 12:53 pm #

        Sigh, if only you could edit your replies…..

  4. Ed Bast March 28, 2011 at 10:40 am #

    “This may be the best Twins team in a long, long time. They could easily run away with the division.”

    What?! This team isn’t as good as the 2010 team which got embarrassed yet again in the playoffs. The Sox and Tigers are much better than last year’s versions. The Twins could much more easily not win the division at all. I like the optimism, but come on. Coming into Opening Day this team’s ceiling, like it has been every year with this organization, is the Central Division. Be real.

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