Mackey: Twins' 25-man roster projection, version 1.0
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Between now and the first weekend in April, the Minnesota Twins' spring training clubhouse at Hammond Stadium will dwindle from 66 players down to 25.
As of right now, position battles are few and far between, which might seem odd for a team that lost 99 games last season. But because of that futility, player job security is at an all-time low during the Ron Gardenhire administration. Spots must be earned.
With pitchers and catchers officially set to report on Saturday, here's an early look at the projected 25-man roster -- not necessarily based on what this scribe thinks the Twins should do, but instead what the Twins likely will do.
Not much drama here, barring any health issues. Pavano, Liriano and Marquis all enter spring training with a clean bill. Blackburn underwent offseason forearm surgery, but he told 1500 ESPN on Wednesday that he has thrown a couple bullpen sessions this month with no problems. Other than building up velocity and testing movement, Blackburn appears to have a healthy arm. Baker dealt with more elbow discomfort in the second half of last season, but he said in January he's currently healthy. His status will be monitored perhaps slightly closer than the other four starters.
Perkins and Capps are locked in as the eighth and ninth inning guys, but the other five slots could fluctuate all spring depending on a number of factors. Duensing likely finds himself returning to the same late-inning relief role he was in two seasons ago. Zumaya, coming off two major shoulder surgeries, has the upside of a top-flight closer, but the attrition rate of Mark Prior. Swarzak excelled in a mop-up role last year, Burnett has the organization intrigued, and Doyle was a Rule-5 draftee that must be offered back to the White Sox if he doesn't make the Twins' 25-man roster out of camp.
Position players (13)
Keeping three catchers would normally cripple a team's bench, but in this case it's probably necessary. Mauer was only able to catch 47 games last season, and Doumit only 53. Plus, Doumit throws out only 25% of base stealers for his career. Not to mention, Mauer and Doumit can both play multiple positions, and both will be used as designated hitters. Keeping a third catcher is more of a necessity now than at any point during Gardenhire's tenure.
The two biggest question marks here are Morneau's health and Nishioka's ability to show he belongs. If Nishioka can't cut it, the door opens for guys like Brian Dozier and Luke Hughes, who is currently sidelined with a shoulder injury. Casilla will be pushed by Dozier and Hughes as well. Valencia will be pushed by 31-year-old non-roster invite Sean Burroughs.
Based on his comments over the past couple months, Span seems to be taking a cautiously optimistic approach to spring training. If he has rid himself of the migraine and concussion symptoms that shelved him for much of last season, he'll play center field and bat leadoff. Penciled around Span right now are Willingham, who must get used to a new position in right field, and Revere, who has worked on his arm strength this offseason. Plouffe will still see some time as a spot-starter in the infield, but it's likely the majority of his defensive innings will come in the outfield -- a position he just started dabbling in last year. The last bench spot is completely up for grabs. Tosoni has the edge, but Chris Parmelee, Joe Benson and others will have their opportunities.
Other pitchers on the radar:
RHP Lester Oliveros
RHP Kyle Waldrop
RHP Liam Hendriks
RHP Carlos Gutierrez
LHP Scott Diamond
LHP Phil Dumatrait*
RHP Jason Bulger*
RHP Jared Burton*
RHP Jeff Manship
RHP Deolis Guerra
Other position players on the radar:
1B Chris Parmelee
2B Luke Hughes#
MI Brian Dozier*
OF Darin Mastroianni
OF Joe Benson
3B Sean Burroughs*
C J.R. Towles*
* Not currently on the 40-man roster
# Out of minor league options