Mackey: A look at the Twins' current roster situation
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Joe Mauer remains day-to-day after an MRI revealed no structural damage and no bone bruise, only a deep soft tissue bruise. So for the time being, the Twins have settled on a roster that includes three catchers and only 11 pitchers. It's fortunate for manager Ron Gardenhire that starters Scott Baker, Francisco Liriano and Nick Blackburn have all pitched deep into ballgames this week, which has allowed the short-handed bullpen to rest up.
The team hopes Mauer will be able to avoid a stint on the disabled list, and the fact that he can start taking some light batting practice is a good sign. When Mauer returns, the obvious roster move is to send either Wilson Ramos or Drew Butera back to Rochester and call up a 12th pitcher.
With that 12th pitcher in mind -- along with the Twins' crowded catcher situation -- let's take a look at some of the Twins' possibilities with players not currently on the 25-man roster.
- C Jose Morales: While catching, DHing, and rehabbing his wrist at extended spring training this week, Morales suffered a minor setback by injuring his hip on a slide. His timetable for returning to the 25-man roster is still unknown.
- RHP Pat Neshek: Was placed on the 15-day disabled list this week because he is still nursing a sore middle finger on his pitching hand. To make matters worse, he irritated manager Ron Gardenhire by requesting to go on the DL rather than accepting a demotion to AAA. That's not to accuse Neshek of lying about his finger. But he clearly wasn't 100% honest about something. And his fastball has dipped into the 84-85 mph range.
- LHP Jose Mijares: On the disabled list with tightness in his elbow, Mijares threw a solid bullpen session earlier this week, and now he's scheduled to pitch for Class-AAA Rochester on Friday and Sunday this weekend. Before the messy Neshek situation went down, I would have bet plenty on Mijares spending significant time in the minor leagues this summer. That may no longer be the case, if he stays on track.
- RHP Clay Condrey: Condrey still feels soreness in his throwing elbow, and he has been shut down indefinitely. Hopefully the Twins have a powerful enough toilet to flush Condrey's $900,000 salary and potential medical expenses.
- RHP Anthony Swarzak: Swarzak remains sidelined with a broken foot. He's out for at least another month, but when healthy, he's near the top of the phone tree when the Twins need a spot start.
Reinforcements on the 40-man roster
- RHP Jeff Manship: Manship struggled with command during spring training, but he walked only three batters in 20 2/3 innings to start the AAA season, and he pitched effectively last weekend against Cleveland. He was sent back to Rochester on Tuesday to make room for Blackburn, but Manship is probably Gardenhire's first choice in another emergency situation.
- LHP Glen Perkins: Hardly considered a reinforcement these days, Perkins was shelled again on Tuesday night. Perkins threw 80 pitches in 2 1/3 innings against the Durham Bulls, allowing seven hits, two walks, six earned runs and three home runs. His ERA at Rochester for the season is 10.90.
- RHP Rob Delaney: Has yet to fully master the AAA level, but Delaney remains the most viable relief option on the 40-man roster. He throws a low-90's fastball and has tallied 18 strikeouts in 16 innings at Rochester this season, and Gardenhire mentioned Delaney on Wednesday as a guy he likes.
Reinforcements NOT currently on the 40-man roster
- RHP Anthony Slama: He continues to rack up strikeouts in Rochester (23 Ks in 18 1/3 innings), but his walk rate (4.4 BB per nine) remains slightly suspect. Not to mention, Slama allowed four baserunners, a home run, and two earned runs in two innings against Durham on Tuesday night. Still, the Twins bullpen could use an injection of strikeouts and potential dominance to go along with a league low 2.64 walks per nine.
- RHP Kyle Waldrop: In 18 1/3 innings at Class-AAA Rochester, Waldrop has allowed only four earned runs (1.96 ERA) and two walks, while striking out 11. Waldrop is a converted starter following shoulder surgery in 2008, and he relies on a low-90's sinking fastball to induce ground balls. In fact, since turning into a reliever last season, Waldrop has induced 60% grounders. To put that into perspective, the Twins bullpen as a whole induces 42% grounders.
* If the Twins decide to call up Slama and/or Waldrop at some point, they would be forced to remove somebody from the 40-man roster. Anyone removed from the 40-man roster must pass through waivers, which means they run a high risk of being picked up by another team.
Most vulnerable players on 40-man roster
- RHP Loek Van Mil: Remains in extended spring training nursing shin splints in Fort Myers. Van Mil also nursed a shoulder injury during regular spring training, but the Twins are hopeful he can rejoin Class-AA New Britain soon. Still, there's a decent chance he'd pass through waivers. And if not, would anyone really lose sleep over it?
- INF Alexi Casilla: Only 13 plate appearances so far this season, but his defensive versatility makes him somewhat valuable to the big league squad. He also has more offensive potential than Matt Tolbert (insert joke here).
- INF Matt Tolbert: Although he did blast a leadoff home run on Monday night against Durham, Tolbert continues to struggle offensively (.237/.283/.344) and defensively (six errors) at Rochester. Gardenhire loves Tolbert, but he is extremely replaceable, especially with Casilla and Nick Punto already on the major league roster.
- RHP Jesse Crain: A solid outing on Wednesday for Crain, who lowered his ERA to 5.27 by retiring all four batters he faced. Crain isn't nearly as bad as many Twins fans seem to think, but it's also frustrating to watch a guy throw a mid-90's fastball with nasty breaking stuff and get blasted around for crooked numbers on a semi-regular basis. The chances of the Twins designating Crain for assignment are very slim, and he would absolutely be picked up by somebody. And he'd probably thrive, especially in the National League.
- Perkins: Talk about a fall from grace. Perkins went from the Twins starting rotation to having a 10.00+ ERA at Rochester in less than one calendar year. If Perkins wasn't left-handed, he would have zero trade value. And after his dismal performance to date, he may not have any trade value regardless.