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Updated: March 31st, 2012 4:15pm
Notebook: Twins will open with 4-man rotation, including Liam Hendriks

Notebook: Twins will open with 4-man rotation, including Liam Hendriks

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Minnesota Twins starting rotation is set, and its contents are different than envisioned at the start of spring training.

Manager Ron Gardenhire confirmed Liam Hendriks will start the Twins' third game of the season against the Baltimore Orioles next Sunday. Hendriks will be followed by Nick Blackburn in the home opener on Monday, April 9, which was confirmed Friday.

Carl Pavano and Francisco Liriano will start the first and second games of the season in Baltimore. The Twins don't need a fifth starter until April 15, due to an off-day before the fifth game of the season. 

General manager Terry Ryan said Hendriks "put himself in pretty good position" after allowing only one hit in five innings against a potent Blue Jays lineup on Friday, lowering his spring ERA to 1.80.

Between Double-A and Triple-A last season, Hendriks posted a 3.36 ERA with 111 strikeouts and only 20 unintentional walks in 139 1/3 innings. He allowed only five home runs and posted a respectable 44% groundball rate.

Hendriks posted a 6.17 ERA with 16 strikeouts and six walks in 23 1/3 major league innings last year, but Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson like the way he has attacked hitters and limited walks this spring.

Jason Marquis has been away from the team for more than a week, tending to his 7-year-old daughter who was involved in a bicycle accident in New York. It's possible he could return to the club within the next couple days, but even if he does return Marquis hasn't faced professional competition since March 19.

"We'll have to evaluate him when he arrives, too," general manager Terry Ryan said. "He told me again yesterday, he's working and working hard. I think everybody's aware it's not quite the same, so we'll have to see what he looks like when we get him here."

Asked if Hendriks' potential start against the Orioles would be considered a place-holder position, Ryan said, "Once you give that guy the ball, and they keep getting people out, you keep giving him the ball. You see where it takes us. He may throw so good that you don't have to worry about it."

Anthony Swarzak stretched out to six innings on Saturday, but he will start the season in the bullpen.

'We have some issues' with Butera's offense

It's no secret why Drew Butera was optioned to Triple-A Rochester on Saturday morning.

In 2011, he became just the sixth player since 1980 with at least 200 plate appearances to post an OPS below .450.

"We've got to make sure we have some offense coming here too," Ryan said. "We didn't score enough runs last year. And I told Drew that we when we signed Doumit."

It's probably only fitting that just 60 minutes after Ryan uttered that statement Doumit blasted a home run to deep right-center field.

Butera is regarded as one of the better defensive catchers in baseball, and Ryan said it wouldn't take a considerable amount of offense to keep him on the roster.

"Does he move runners? Does he get them in from third with one out? Does he sacrifice bunt? OK," Ryan said. "We have some issues there. I'm not sure you can say anybody who can't provide anything offensively is going to have much of a career. But as we say, if he moves the chains some, he doesn't have to hit much."

Gardenhire said his conversation with Butera on Saturday morning was "very hard."

"For me it's tough, because he's a guy that does anything and everything you ask. ... He checks his ego at the door and he'll do everything you ask. For a manager, that's pretty good. So it was really hard for me. I didn't like it at all, because I really like and respect the guy. And that's not even talking about his ability to catch and throw. He's as good as there are in this league catching and throwing. So, it's hard. He just doesn't have the offense right now. He's still got a chance to get a little offense going."

Burroughs in?

Earlier this spring, Ryan said he was interested in having someone on the bench who was able to take patient, mature at-bats against top-level relief pitchers late in games.

Now that Butera has been optioned to Triple-A, indications are the final position player roster slot will go to infielder Sean Burroughs -- a guy who could very well fit Ryan's description of a late-inning bench bat, and possibly more.

"He's calm, he can throw, takes a good at-bat, he can get to velocity, he gives you a chance it looks like to me," Ryan said.

"Those are the kind of guys you like to see in that eighth and ninth inning to give you a chance. He looks like one of those type of guys. I think he's got some confidence in himself to put a good at-bat together."

Playing mostly third base, is hitting .342 this spring after singling in the seventh inning on Saturday.

Burroughs is a non-roster invite, but the Twins do have two openings on their 40-man roster.

Today's result

Twins 15, Pirates 3

Twins' spring record: 18-13

• In six innings, Swarzak allowed only one earned run on six hits while striking out six. He is being stretched out in case the Twins need extra starting pitchers with uncertainty surrounding Jason Marquis and Scott Baker.

• The Twins' offense pounded out 20 hits, including four by Denard Span and three by Brian Dozier and Trevor Plouffe. Dozier and Ryan Doumit each homered. Joe Mauer cleared the bases with a three-RBI double as well. Justin Morneau went 2-for-4 with a double.

Health report

• 2B Alexi Casilla (inflammation behind right knee) fielded groundballs before Saturday's game, and he hopes to play on Sunday. "I knew right away it wasn't that bad," Casilla said about the injury.

• RHP Kyle Waldrop, placed on the 15-day DL on Saturday, will rehab his strained elbow at Target Field.

• The plan is for DL-bound right-hander Scott Baker (elbow tendonitis) to start opening day for the Fort Myers Miracle on Thursday. "That's our goal," Gardenhire said. "Now, he has to come in tomorrow and say he's OK. We can't guarantee that, and we haven't talked to the Miracle about it yet, but that's our goal. ... But as I said, we're going day by day with him."

Numbers game

7: Consecutive games with a hit for Morneau.

.246: Morneau's spring batting average, after watching it dip below .100 as recent as a week ago.

Overheard

"No comment today, guys. Speed doesn't slump."
-- Burroughs, messing with reporters.

On deck

Sunday: @ Red Sox, 12:35 p.m. RHP Carl Pavano vs. RHP Vicente Padilla
Monday: @ Rays, 12:05 p.m. LHP Francisco Liriano vs. LHP David Price
Tuesday: vs. Rays, 12:05 p.m. TBA vs. RHP Jeremy Hellickson
Wednesday: vs. Fort Myers, 12:05 p.m. TBA vs. TBA

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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