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Updated: March 22nd, 2012 11:38am
Reusse: How far will Terry Ryan take no-scholarship approach?

Reusse: How far will Terry Ryan take no-scholarship approach?

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by Patrick Reusse

FORT MYERS, FLA. -- The Twins brought a gang of 67 players to spring training in the name of competition. General Manager Terry Ryan said there would be "no scholarships'' in this camp, meaning that the bottom 40 percent of the roster would not be based on such things as seniority, investment and available options.

Ryan kept that promise to a degree this week, when he optioned middle infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka to Class AAA Rochester and sent pitcher Terry Doyle, a Rule 5 draftee, back to the Chicago White Sox.

In former times, it is unlikely the Twins would have been so quick to make the decisions. It's not easy for a team to admit with 2 ½ weeks remaining in exhibition games that they were so wrong on a Japanese infielder brought here with great hype a year earlier, and also on last December's No. 2 selection from a very large group of draft eligible minor leaguers.

There was a substantial difference in investment, obviously, with Nishioka still due two-thirds of the $9 million contract he received in December 2010, and Doyle costing $50,000 to draft (with a $25,000 return from the White Sox).

When you list the reasons for Bill Smith's firing as GM, the fact it turned out Nishioka can't play might rank No. 1. So, if Bill still was in charge, you can bet that manager Ron Gardenhire would have been told to continue the Nishi charade at least until the end of spring training.

Ryan got the overmatched former Japan League batting champ across the parking lot to minor league camp quickly, saving Gardenhire in two areas: A) he didn't have to continue wasting playing time in exhibitions on Nishioka; and B) he didn't have to continue answering daily questions about Nishi's status from both Twin Cities and Japanese reporters.

As a Rule 5 draftee, Doyle either had to stay with the Twins (on the in-season, 25-player active list) or to be offered back to the Mighty Whiteys for 25 grand. These guys are always long shots, but the last time the Twins wound up with the player taken second in the Rule 5 draft, it was 2000 and the pitcher was Johan Santana.

This time, it was clear right away Doyle had no chance to be even a marginal big-league pitcher when this season started, so Ryan let him go in a hurry.

Believe it or not, there were still 14 exhibitions vs. big league opponents remaining as the Twins started play Thursday against Baltimore. They probably will have settled on a roster by April 1, and it will be interesting to see how far Ryan will take this no-scholarship strategy.

The Twins signed veteran infielder Jamey Carroll in mid-November. Immediately, they were saying Carroll would be the shortstop and Alexi Casilla the second baseman for 2012.

By all accounts, Brian Dozier has been the best shortstop in camp. And the wisdom from the National League has been that Carroll was more of a second baseman than a shortstop.

Assuming Dozier continues to play well, a no-scholarship approach would seem to have him at shortstop, with Carroll and Casilla taking care of second and the role of backup in the middle.

Except, the hints remain strong that Dozier will not be allowed to make the club -- that it will be Carroll and Casilla in the middle, with Casilla as the backup shortstop, Luke Hughes as the backup second baseman and perhaps Sean Burroughs as an extra player.

There's also the question of a third catcher. The thought was the Twins definitely would carry one -- based both on the idea Joe Mauer would play with frequency at first base, and that backup catcher Ryan Doumit would be the regular DH.

And if they go that way, the question becomes, "Does Drew Butera stay on scholarship?,'' or do the Twins go with a third catcher with a half of a chance to get a hit?

One other thing I'm wondering: Chris Parmelee was impressive last September, and he has been very impressive this spring.

What if he stays, to split DH and first base duties with Justin Morneau, and the Twins go with two catchers _ Mauer and Doumit?

That seems like a no-scholarship plan that could provide more juice to the lineup and off the bench.

Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He co-hosts SportsTalk from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. and hosts The Ride with Reusse from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. He also co-hosts "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Patrick | @1500ESPN_reusse | The Ride with Reusse