Mackey: Twins' 25-man roster projection, version 2.0
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Three spring training games and two weeks of workouts aren't really enough evidence for making wholesale 25-man roster projection changes.
But with right-handed reliever Joel Zumaya out for the season -- and set to undergo Tommy John surgery -- and other players starting to make themselves noticeable in various workouts, position battles have officially begun to heat up at the Lee County Sports Complex.
Here's a second look at what the 25-man roster could look like -- not necessarily based on what this scribe thinks the Twins should do, but instead what the Twins likely will do:
Changes from Version 1: None.
The Twins still intend to stretch out Brian Duensing and Anthony Swarzak this spring in case one of the five current starters goes down with an injury. Aside from obvious production question marks from several of these starters, Blackburn's forearm surgery recovery -- which he says is going well -- and Baker's recent history of nagging elbow issues are probably the two main concerns.
Other starters on radar: Duensing, Swarzak, Liam Hendriks, Terry Doyle
Changes from Version 1: Zumaya's spot comes open for grabs after an MRI revealed a torn UCL, sidelining the right-hander for the 2012 season, and possibly forever. Oliveros added.
As manager Ron Gardenhire put it this past weekend, "We kind of made some pretty good plans with Zumaya, so that opens up a little bit more." Fault the Twins for making "pretty good plans" with a guy who has undergone five major arm surgeries since 2007, not including a possible upcoming Tommy John procedure. But Twins decision makers feel comfortable, for now, with the 32 arms in camp. They feel as if two or three will jump up somewhat like Glen Perkins did in 2011.
Lefties Matt Maloney and Scott Diamond, and righties Oliveros, Kyle Waldrop, Jeff Manship and Jeff Gray have a slight advantage, since they have major league experience and are already on the 40-man roster. But Zumaya's absence will open a 40-man slot, and this bullpen race is wide open until the end of March.
Position players (13)
Changes from Version 1: None.
General manager Terry Ryan made it clear this week he needs more offensive production out of the backup catchers, and because of that the Twins will take a long look at J.R. Towles, who blasted a go-ahead, ninth-inning, two-run homer in Port Charlotte on Saturday. He replaced Butera, who went 0-for-3 with a strikeout.
Towles owns a Triple-A batting line of .286/.389/.443 in 556 plate appearances, but he has yet to put it together in the major leagues. Before moving him up to the 25-man roster -- and the 40-man -- the Twins will need to see more of Towles in the upcoming spring games.
But Towles has a prime opportunity to take the third catcher position from Butera. And several people in the organization are hoping Towles takes that job.
Other catchers on radar: Towles*, Rene Rivera, Chris Herrmann*
Changes from Version 1: Hughes added.
Hughes worked his way back from a shoulder injury just in time to DH in Sunday's game against the Red Sox. He should soon be able to play in the field as well. Considering Hughes is out of minor league options, the Twins will give him every opportunity to make the ball club. He has plus-power and the ability to do damage to left-handed pitchers off the bench, which could be a valuable spot-starter trait.
Nishioka is the other wild card. He singled and tripled in his first spring appearance Saturday, but as Gardenhire said last week, he and GM Terry Ryan won't award roster spots without players earning them. "We're away from the scholarships. No more scholarships because we don't have anybody else. You earn it, or you don't earn it. Scholarship program's out."
The minute Nishioka or Hughes stumbles, Sean Burroughs is waiting to grab a backup spot. The Twins view Burroughs as a valuable veteran who can play multiple positions and who could possibly take solid at-bats against top-end relief pitchers late in games.
Other infielders on radar: Burroughs*, Chris Parmelee, Brian Dozier*, Pedro Florimon*
Changes from Version 1: Rene Tosoni removed.
Ryan Doumit has been taking reps in the outfield, which limits the Twins' need for a fifth outfielder camp breaks. For now, Willingham will start in right field with Span in center, and Plouffe and Revere will likely platoon left based on who the opposing pitcher is. Although, reading between the lines, it sounds as if Gardenhire wouldn't mind Plouffe stepping up this spring and forcing the outfield to shuffle -- "He's probably more comfortable in right," Gardenhire said. "If this young man swings the bat like he's capable of, he can make it really entertaining around here by the end of spring training." Where things could get complicated is if Tosoni or Joe Benson start tearing the cover off the ball.
Other outfielders on radar: Tosoni, Benson, Brian Dinkelman, Darin Mastroianni
* Not currently on the 40-man roster
# Out of minor league options
Unofficial, perceived depth chart