The Minnesota Twins have set their roster for the regular season. The most notable feature?
That might be flexibility.
Manager Ron Gardenhire's club has plenty of questions about health, reliability and productivity to answer this spring and summer as the Twins try to rebound from that embarrassing 63-99 record. As Gardenhire begins his 11th year running the team, he has as many options as he's maybe ever had.
The Twins placed right-hander Scott Baker on the 15-day disabled list and optioned right-hander Jason Marquis to Double-A New Britain on Wednesday, with neither starter ready yet for live action after missing time recently. It was the Major League Baseball deadline for setting Opening Day 25-man rosters.
So as the Twins broke camp in Fort Myers, Fla., and left for Baltimore to face the Orioles on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, they took this group with them:
" Joe Mauer at catcher, Chris Parmelee at first base, Alexi Casilla at second base, Jamey Carroll at shortstop, Danny Valencia at third base, and Luke Hughes and Sean Burroughs as backup infielders. Trevor Plouffe is in right field, Denard Span is the center fielder and Josh Willingham is in left. Justin Morneau is the designated hitter for now, Ryan Doumit will relieve Mauer behind the plate and Ben Revere will be the fourth outfielder.
"With Valencia and Parmelee hitting at the bottom of your lineup, you've got to feel pretty good," general manager Terry Ryan said. "You look at the guys: Everyone we've got out there is somewhat close to their prime."
" With Baker and Marquis temporarily unavailable, right-hander Carl Pavano, lefty Francisco Liriano, rookie right-hander Liam Hendriks and righty Nick Blackburn comprise the rotation. Matt Capps is the closer, with left-hander Glen Perkins serving as the primary set-up man. Right-handers Anthony Swarzak, Jared Burton, Alex Burnett and Jeff Gray fill out the bullpen with lefties Brian Duensing and Matt Maloney. Right-hander Kyle Waldrop, who was in line for a relief spot with a strong spring, is on the DL with a strained elbow.
The Twins selected the contracts of Burton and Burroughs from Triple-A Rochester so they could be added to the 40-man roster; both players were invited to spring training on minor-league deals.
Baker has been bothered by tendinitis in his elbow. He was put on the DL retroactive to March 27, making him eligible to rejoin the rotation on April 12. Marquis missed two weeks of spring training to tend to his seriously injured 7-year-old daughter, and the Twins want him to catch up with some time in the minors. Hendriks will take one starting spot on Sunday, and the Twins have an off day on Tuesday.
This is a mild shuffle, though, compared to what could happen in the field and in the lineup this season.
Doumit will share time in right field with Plouffe, who also will be the primary backup to Carroll at shortstop. Plouffe and Hughes can play second, and Burroughs was brought in to push Valencia at third. Parmelee, one of the organization's top-hitting prospects, has made the Twins comfortable using Morneau as a DH only as he tries to get back up to speed after nearly two years ruined by post-concussion symptoms and other injury problems.
"There's worse things that could happen for this organization than having that bat in the lineup," Ryan said. "And Parmelee has stepped up to make that allowable."
Said Morneau, reluctant but realistic: "It's tough to sit there and watch when you're used to playing. Everything's a routine, and you kind of need a routine to get used to it and stay in the flow of the game. It's a step toward moving back to first base every day. I don't expect to be a DH, but it's the best thing for now to stay healthy and to get back into playing regularly."
Mauer, of course, is coming off an injury-wrecked season himself. So he'll need his usual breaks from catching, but the Twins don't want to leave his bat on the bench. So he'll play some first base and DH as well. The same goes for Doumit.
If Mauer is at first, Parmelee could play right, too. Plouffe's power potential make him another DH candidate on days when he's not in right. Revere's speed around the bases and in the outfield was one of the few bright spots last year, but his weak throwing arm and lack of power at the plate have prompted the Twins to make him a backup. That's not the long-term role the Twins envisioned for the former first-round draft pick, but for now his ability to pinch run and be a defensive replacement and spot starter at all three spots is a plus.
"You can talk about it all you want. We've watched it down here, but quick here the season's going to start and we've got to get it done between the lines," Gardenhire said. "As far as enjoying watching these guys play, I have. These guys are fun to watch."