FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Twins’ Opening Day roster is nearly set after a group of roster moves on Saturday morning trimmed the number of players left in major league camp down to 30.
The Twins reassigned catcher Tomas Telis, infielders Tzu-Wei Lin and JT Riddle and outfielders Keon Broxton and Rob Refsnyder to minor league camp before their 2-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Hammond Stadium, effectively sealing a spot on the roster for utilityman Willians Astudillo.
Just two questions remain before the Twins wrap up camp and head north: Who will nab the final outfield spot? And the final bullpen spot?
The Twins clarified their left field picture a bit on Tuesday, sending down top prospect Alex Kirilloff. That leaves Brent Rooker and Kyle Garlick competing for a spot to join Max Kepler, Byron Buxton and Jake Cave on the roster. Both have had strong offensive springs; Garlick, with his team-leading five home runs, has certainly made an impression on his new team after being claimed off waivers in February, and Rooker has had a productive spring at the plate as well after setting out to prove that his performance in his seven games in the majors last season was no fluke.
While the Twins sort through their outfield options, manager Rocco Baldelli said they would likely not utilize a straight platoon or have a traditional starter out there. Rather, they’ll have a group of guys that can go out there and fill the spot on any given day. That group will include Cave, Rooker or Garlick, and Luis Arraez, among others.
“It could be one of four or five different guys actually running out there in left field on any given day. And there’s always the chance that someone steps in and ends up taking a bigger role, as we get going. I mean, that’s always a possibility. I never want to take away from that possibility,” Baldelli said. “There are bats that are available for our guys. But as we get going at the onset of the season, I think there will be a very qualified, talented committee of guys that are going to go out there and play some left field for us.”
There’s also a final bullpen spot that would seem to come down to Caleb Thielbar, who posted a 2.25 earned-run average in 17 outings with the Twins last season, and non-roster invitees Brandon Waddell and Derek Law. Though the latter two would require a 40-man roster move to carry, they’ve both performed well this spring.
Waddell has struck out 15 batters in his 8 1/3 innings pitched and Law hasn’t allowed a run in seven innings pitched this spring. All three worked around traffic but threw a scoreless inning in Saturday’s game.
Reliever Edwar Colina has been dealing with right elbow inflammation and is expected to begin the season on the injured list. Though he is still included in the 30 players left in camp, he has not pitched in a Grapefruit League game all spring.
“From everything that I know on the medical side, I don’t foresee it as a long-term type of issue,” Baldelli said. “This is something that I think he can work through. But it’s not something that I think we’re going to be rushing at this point in any way.”
Kepler breaks through
The Twins aren’t reading too much into spring training results, especially for veterans, so when Kepler was mired in an 0 for 32 stretch, one that lasted nearly the entire month of March, his manager was focusing more on how he looked and which pitches he was swinging at, projecting little concern over the right fielder’s stats.
But it sure had to feel nice for Kepler to break out of that stretch on Saturday with a little flair into left field that dropped in for a single in his third at-bat of the day. It was just Kepler’s third hit of the spring.
“It’s spring training, but everyone likes getting hits and when you’re not feeling so hot at the plate, yeah, a hit like that will definitely help you,” Baldelli said. “…When Kep gets to Opening Day, just like everyone else over here, everything starts from scratch. Although these games don’t really matter for a guy like Kep statistically, getting hits always feels good. I don’t know any other way to put it.”
Baldelli said Mitch Garver, who left Thursday’s game with a left finger contusion is doing OK and will be back on the field within the next day or two. … Jose Berrios is scheduled to make his final start of the spring on Sunday. Matt Canterino and Matt Shoemaker will start the final two games of the spring. … Akil Baddoo, who the Tigers selected from the Twins in the Rule 5 Draft, has made the Tigers’ Opening Day roster.