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Updated: March 9th, 2012 4:03pm
Notebook: Twins decision-makers narrowing down bullpen candidates

Notebook: Twins decision-makers narrowing down bullpen candidates

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It's still too early in the spring training schedule to start writing anything in ink, but the Minnesota Twins bullpen battle has started to take shape.

With the team likely to carry a seven-man bullpen on the 25-man roster, Matt Capps and Glen Perkins are locked in as the closer and set-up man.

Behind those two, the Twins' top priority is filling the role once briefly -- or, more accurately, never -- occupied by right-hander Joel Zumaya.

One Twins decision-maker envisions Brian Duensing in "more of the role (Jose) Mijares and Perkins previously held" in the seventh inning.

After that, the other four slots are very much up for grabs.

Left-hander Matt Maloney, with his quick start, has emerged as a leading candidate for the long-relief role. The Twins also like what they've seen early on from Rule-5 right-hander Terry Doyle.

The Twins front office views righties Alex Burnett and Anthony Swarzak as being firmly in the mix for sixth- and seventh-inning duties, but the aforementioned Twins decision-maker added righty Kyle Waldrop and non-roster invite Jared Burton into that discussion as well.

Hitters rave about Waldrop when he's locked in. One hitter described Waldrop's fastball as having "late, heavy sink," which helps explain his 60% groundball rate in the minor leagues over the past few seasons.

So, based on where things stand now, here's what the bullpen battle (unofficially) looks like:

Closer: RHP Matt Capps
Set-up: LHP Glen Perkins
Late-inning: LHP Brian Duensing
Middle: RHP Anthony Swarzak
Middle: RHP Alex Burnett
Middle: RHP Kyle Waldrop or RHP Lester Oliveros or RHP Jared Burton
Long: RHP Terry Doyle or LHP Matt Maloney

Jeff Manship, Carlos Gutierrez, Scott Diamond and Phil Dumatrait are likely the "last four out," if this was March Madness.

If the season started today, the Twins would obviously have a very inexperienced, question-mark filled bullpen. Guys would need to step up and take on greater roles.

In the cases of Doyle and Maloney, both are starters who will likely fill bullpen roles. But Maloney is out of minor league options, and because Doyle is a Rule-5 draft pick the Twins must keep him on the 25-man roster all season or offer him back to the Chicago White Sox.

Doyle will pitch in Saturday's game in Bradenton against the Pirates.

"We rule-fived him, so we need to see him," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We need to see him against competition and see how he handles himself. ... Normally the game starts with their better players in there. We'll see how they react to his pitches."

Duensing as a late-inning guy would likely be dominant against lefties, who own just a .511 OPS against him. Gardenhire might have to be selective when pinning Duensing against right-handed batters, who own a whopping .836 OPS.

Today's result

Cardinals 3, Twins 2

• Twins' spring record: 3-5

• It wasn't a smooth outing for Jason Marquis, but he wound up allowing only one run in three innings. Marquis threw 39 pitches (20 strikes, one swinging), and of the 15 swings against him, 12 were put into play (five grounders, four flies, three line drives). Marquis walked two and struck out nobody.

"I've always been a big feel guy, ever since I was young -- trying to just feel what I'm doing," Marquis said. "Whether it's from golf to basketball, whatever, I'm just trying to feel it. If it doesn't feel right, obviously I feel like I'm doing something wrong. So I'm searching to get that good feeling. Some days it's unfixable, but you still have to go to war and battle and figure a way out to get hitters out. Those are tough days. But in spring training you're allowed that time and the leeway."

• Making his first start since undergoing Tommy John surgery in late-2010, Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright shut the Twins down for two innings.

• The Twins' two runs both came on bases-loaded walks -- one by Joe Benson in the bottom of the fourth inning, and the other by Pedro Florimon in the ninth. Both fell behind 0-2.

• The Cardinals scored their first run on a sac fly in the third inning, although there's a small chance the Twins could have prevented it with better communication. The medium-depth fly ball came down between centerfielder Joe Benson and left fielder Ben Revere. Instead of calling off Revere, the stronger-armed Benson gave way. Revere's weak throw came nowhere near home plate, instead dribbling past the mound toward the third base line. This is a ball Benson probably should have taken charge on, considering he has the stronger arm.

Demand-based pricing kicks in

A note from the Twins ticket department, regarding ticket prices for 2012:

Beginning Friday, the Twins will apply demand-based pricing to all seating sections of Target Field for the 2012 season. Demand-based pricing, which prices tickets according to fan demand, is a practice that is becoming standard across sports and entertainment industries. The system, which was implemented within two seating categories at Target Field in 2011, applies only to single-game ticket sales and does not affect Season Ticket Holder pricing.

The Twins implemented demand-based pricing during the 2011 season to more accurately price single-game tickets and to provide fans with more price options. In 2012, expanding our demand-based pricing will allow the Twins to adjust all ticket prices (except in the Our Family Section) upward or downward on a daily basis based on real-time market conditions such as team performance, pitching matchups and the weather.

Numbers game

27: Scoreless innings by the Twins' offense until Benson's bases-loaded walk in the fourth inning.

30: Days until the home opener at Target Field. The Target Field grounds crew began removing the protective blankets from the outfield grass on Friday.

Health report

• No significant health concerns

Overheard

"We didn't sign him for that. Not yet."
-- Gardenhire, when asked about Marquis' hitting abilities

"That's the best I've ever seen him."
-- Pitching coach Rick Anderson on Nick Blackburn's 'B'-game outing from earlier this week.

On deck

Saturday: @ Pirates ('B' game), 9:05 a.m., RHP Scott Baker vs. TBD
Saturday: @ Pirates, 12:05 p.m., RHP Terry Doyle vs. LHP Erik Bedard
Sunday: vs. Yankees, 12:05 p.m., RHP Nick Blackburn vs. TBA
Monday: @ Rays, 12:05 p.m., RHP Carl Pavano vs. RHP James Shields

Justin Morneau is scheduled to DH in Saturday's 'A' game against the Pirates.

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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