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Updated: March 2nd, 2012 4:14pm
Notebook: Mauer, Morneau, Span all set to play in spring opener

Notebook: Mauer, Morneau, Span all set to play in spring opener

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Minnesota Twins will roll out the 'A' lineup for Saturday's spring training opener against the Tampa Bay Rays at Hammond Stadium.

For most managers, writing out the 'A' lineup on March 3 wouldn't be headline news, but in 2011 Ron Gardenhire wasn't able to do so until near the end of the month. Injuries pushed Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau's debuts to mid-March. Other players were in and out of the lineup due to injury as well.

With left-hander David Price starting for the Rays, here's the lineup card Gardenhire will fill out:

CF Denard Span
SS Jamey Carroll
C Joe Mauer
1B Justin Morneau
RF Josh Willingham
DH Ryan Doumit
3B Danny Valencia
LF Trevor Plouffe
2B Alexi Casilla

SP Carl Pavano

The presence of Plouffe in the lineup likely signals Gardenhire will platoon him with Ben Revere -- with Plouffe batting against tough left-handed pitchers.

After Pavano, the other pitchers scheduled to throw are Alex Burnett, Brian Duensing, Matt Capps, Glen Perkins, Matt Maloney, Phil Dumatrait and Anthony Swarzak.

Hughes could play Sunday

This is a pretty big spring for infielder Luke Hughes, who is out of minor league options. Hughes was limited for the first two weeks of camp with a sore shoulder he sustained in the Australian Winter League last month.

But Hughes took a full round of batting practice on Friday for the first time this spring. He also threw from 120 feet and participated in infield drills. Hughes said he hopes to DH in one of Sunday's split-squad games.

"I understand everything and what's at stake," Hughes said. "I know I'm out of options. I need to play well and play to my capabilities. I talked to a lot guys during the offseason about that. Hopefully, I'll go out there and play some good baseball and force them to make a decision. That's what you try to do."

Having no minor league options actually could help Hughes claim one of the final bench slots, because he has shown enough promise to potentially warrant one last shot with the club.

But Gardenhire made it clear the organization won't just keep guys on the roster just for the sake of keeping guys -- the "scholarship program," as he calls it.

"We're going to try to fit our team, as I said, we're away from the scholarships," Gardenhire said. "No more scholarships because we don't have anybody else. You earn it, or you don't earn it. Scholarship program's out.

"Sometimes you're forced because that's all you have on the roster. Well, everybody's going to earn it. That's all we're going to do, and I think everybody wants it that way."

Gardenhire added, "Luke needs to go out and play, just like everybody else. He's got big league experience now, let's get healthy and play these positions and see what happens. If he's better than the rest of them, he'll make the ball club."

Health report

• OF Denard Span woke up feeling fine one day after crashing face-first into a chain-link fence in center field. He went through another full day of practice and will start Saturday's spring opener. Asked if Span was OK to play in Saturday's game, Gardenhire said, "I don't ask those questions anymore, it's in the past. I'm going to write (their name) down and they can walk in my office and tell me they're out."

Numbers game

2: Extra playoff teams added by Major League Baseball on Friday, starting in 2012 -- a change Gardenhire isn't sure about -- "I understand the playoff system, wanting more playoff baseball, more revenues, the whole package, more teams getting in, all those things. ... I don't know about this one game though. I'm not on that. You work that hard all summer long, and now all of a sudden because of another wild-card team you get one game. That could go in the first inning. You give up seven runs, there goes 162 ballgames out the window, because of one bad inning, you should have a better opportunity than that."

General manager Terry Ryan likes the additional playoff teams. "Ten teams out of 30 seems to be the right ratio and it rewards the people who won a division title, which is probably the most important piece to it. ... And we have been in those one-game playoffs. Believe me, once you get there it is not as bothersome as it looks on paper, especially when you win them."

Overheard

"How many kids get spanked anymore?"
- Tom Kelly in an interview with 1500 ESPN on Friday, discussing players' sensitivity over criticism.

Coming up

Saturday: vs. Tampa Bay Rays, noon. RHP Carl Pavano vs. LHP David Price.
Sunday: (split squad) @ Boston Red Sox, 12:35 p.m. RHP Terry Doyle vs. TBD
Sunday: (split squad) @Tampa Bay Rays, noon, LHP Francisco Liriano vs. TBD

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.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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