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Updated: April 1st, 2010 7:58am
Nick Punto will start at third base -- but dont forget Brendan Harris

Nick Punto will start at third base -- but dont forget Brendan Harris

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Ron Gardenhire announced today that Nick Punto will be the Minnesota Twins' Opening Day third baseman, but that doesn't mean Brendan Harris' role will be highly limited.

In fact, it wouldn't be a shock if Harris ends up getting nearly as many at-bats as Punto by season's end.

For one, Punto hits better left-handed than right-handed and Harris hits lefties well. So, when a southpaw is on the mound, Harris could get the nod at third base. Though Punto is better defensively, Harris has a fairly good glove for both third base and shortstop, meaning he could spell J.J. Hardy as well. And with designated hitter Jim Thome almost surely done as an infielder, Harris could be in line for spot duty at first base, along with right fielder Michael Cuddyer.

The Twins' high-powered lineup might not need a lot of offense out of the No. 9 spot, giving Punto and his glove the edge. But if that lineup struggles, Gardenhire could give Harris more time to inject some juice -- and if Harris delivers, the balance of action could tilt quickly.

None of which is to say Punto will lose the starting job. It's just that the lineup in April might not look the same as it will in October, especially at a position the Twins targeted for an upgrade in the offseason.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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