Sunday, March 28, 2010

Deciding Not To Decide

Gardy and Bill Smith just about established the Twins' opening day roster over the weekend. Matt Tolbert was optioned to Rochester, where he'll be joined by Jacque Jones, leaving the last bench spot to Alexi Casilla. After the way he's performed over the last season plus, I'm not sure who would want to claim him off of waivers, but he'll get one more chance to prove he can have some value in the bigs.

Anthony Slama was also informed that he won't make the team. With him out of the running, and Glen Perkins in no shape to pitch, it's pretty evident which 12 pitchers will come north next week. Scott Baker, Carl Pavano, Kevin Slowey and Nick Blackburn are all announced members of the rotation. Jon Rauch, Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain, and Jose Mijares are going to be participating in a closer-by-committee early in the season. Clay Condrey's inability to get ground balls this spring is disconcerting, but he's surely going to make the bullpen.

Francisco Liriano and Brian Duensing are apparently still competing for the last spot in the rotation, inasmuch as Gardy refuses to declare Liriano the winner. He will admit that Liriano is in the lead, however. So unless Liriano pitches worse against the Pirates on Tuesday than Duensing pitches against (I presume) the Yankees or Rays on Wednesday, Liriano will get his chance to outshine Baker. That would send Duensing into the bullpen as a 2nd LHP/long relief guy - a good role for him.

Gardy also refuses to guarantee a spot for Pat Neshek, despite strong numbers (8.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 11 K) in his first action since May 2008. Apparently, there's some question as to whether he'll be able to manage pitching 2 days in a row. Honestly. I find it hard to believe that someone who has rehabbed and conditioned as hard as Neshek would have any trouble throwing 15-20 pitches on 2 straight days. They'll test him on Wednesday and Thursday, and, assuming he doesn't get shelled or hurt himself on Thursday, he'll have to make the team. I mean, who's going to take that spot instead? Ron Mahay? He hasn't pitched in a game yet. And even when he does, I doubt he'll be able to approach the performance Neshek has given so far.

The only spot that's up in the air is the temporary backup catcher position. Wilson Ramos has shown conclusively that he's a far better all-around player than Drew Butera. But experience and concerns about starting Ramos' service clock may carry the day for Butera.

I'd like to see the Twins field the best team they can given the guys they brought to camp, and I'm not sure they're going to do that. But if they don't, at least it won't be at any positions where they're relying on that person to play a lot. The rest of the team is good enough to pick up the slack, at least for the first few weeks of the season.

No comments: