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Updated: March 19th, 2012 10:52am
Nishioka's demotion could open door for Dozier, Burroughs to make club

Nishioka's demotion could open door for Dozier, Burroughs to make club

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- With Tsuyoshi Nishioka's demotion to Triple-A on Monday, the door to the 25-man roster is now propped for infielders Brian Dozier, Sean Burroughs and others.

The Twins' opening day roster is likely to contain 12 pitchers and 13 position players. Of those 13 position players, barring health issues, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Alexi Casilla, Jamey Carroll, Ryan Doumit, Danny Valencia, Denard Span, Josh Willingham and Trevor Plouffe are near-locks. It's also likely the Twins will keep Ben Revere and a third catcher.

That would leave two backup slots for infielders.

Luke Hughes -- hitting .240/.296/.440 with a homer and two doubles this spring -- is out of minor league options, and he can play third base, second base and first base.

If Hughes is in, that leaves one slot for Burroughs, Dozier, Chris Parmelee, Brian Dinkelman, Mike Hollimon or Pedro Florimon.

Parmelee is hitting the ball well this spring (.292/.393/.542, two home runs), but his at-bats would be taken mostly by Morneau and Doumit.

Dinkelman (6-for-19, two doubles) and Hollimon (8-for-15, one home run) are also having good springs, but both are very limited with defensive skills. Florimon likely needs more time at Triple-A.

That could leave Dozier and Burroughs to battle out for the final roster slot over the next two weeks.

Burroughs has played well defensively at third base this spring, for the most part, and the Twins like his patient approach at the plate. He's hitting .250/.375/.350 in Grapefruit League action but has several hits in 'B' games as well, including a double against the Pirates on Sunday morning.

Burroughs has also expressed a willingness to play multiple positions, including second base if necessary.

For Dozier, it's possible the future might come early. At age 24, he has yet to play above Double-A, but after a solid run in the Arizona Fall League and a .300/.333/.550 batting line through the first half of spring training, Dozier is making a serious push.

"We've taken a lot of players from Double-A through the years," general manager Terry Ryan said. "That's not going to scare us off. If he looks like he's mature enough, or any of these guys are ready enough. ...

"I'm not afraid of that and neither is Gardy. ... It's much maturity off the field and the grind and being strong enough mentally and all that stuff. Evaluate that much as the skills out there and where they fall."

Twins coaches would like to see him clean up a few things defensively, but pitchers rave about Dozier's sure-handedness at shortstop.

It probably doesn't make sense to put Dozier on the major league roster if he isn't starting and playing every day. But the fact that Dozier can play shortstop does factor in, because Carroll and Casilla are currently the only two 25-man roster locks that play the position. Plouffe played a couple innings at shortstop in a 'B' game earlier this month, but the Twins view him as an outfielder.

Asked if he could envision Dozier making the team as a utility player, Ryan said, "I wouldn't necessarily. That wouldn't be my choice. I don't think it would do the kid any good to be a utility player in the Major Leagues."

With Joel Zumaya out for the season, the Twins will have one open spot on the 40-man roster whenever they choose to use it. Neither Burroughs nor Dozier are currently on the 40-man roster.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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