FORT MYERS, Fla. — Erick Aybar’s locker is empty this morning, so the Twins have their answer: The veteran infielder decided to take his chances elsewhere, rather than accept an assignment to Triple-A. Aybar’s decision is understandable, but given the Twins’ lack of infield depth during Jorge Polanco’s 80-game steroid suspension, the team wouldn’t have mind stashing someone with his experience at Rochester.
If something was to happen to one of their current infielders, it’s possible they could contact Aybar again. But the 34-year-old Dominican is likely to spend the next week trying to find a team that needs a backup infielder more immediately.
The Twins are close to making their final decisions about their roster, but they too may wait a few days to lock it down. Mitch Garver and Ehire Adrianza appear certain to claim half of the Twins’ four bench spots, leaving room for two more hitters, one of them definitely an outfielder. Zack Granite is the best defender among the group, though like Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario, he’s a left-handed hitter. Should the Twins decide to balance their outfield with a righthanded hitter, Ryan LaMarre has a shot at taking that job after a strong spring.
That leaves a spot for Robbie Grossman — or someone else. Grossman is a switch-hitter whose platoon split last season was better when he batted left-handed, but historically, he’s better batting right-handed. His defense isn’t as strong as the others, and he’s not a center fielder, but he’s good at drawing walks and getting aboard; his .361 on-base percentage was second on the Twins last year, behind only Joe Mauer.
But he doesn’t hit for much power, and that’s something the Twins’ bench lacks. The feeling in the clubhouse is that the Twins will keep an eye on the waiver wire this weekend, on the lookout for another hitter, probably one with righthanded power.
And yes, it’s possible they could claim Kennys Vargas if the Reds put him on waivers. Vargas was an odd fit for Cincinnati, given that their All-Star first baseman Joey Votto hasn’t missed more than four games in a season since 2014, and there is no designated hitter in the National League. The Twins needed Vargas’ roster spot to claim Jake Cave last week, but their roster is at 39 now, so there is room.
Meanwhile, while the Twins must decide this weekend whether to keep Rule 5 reliever Tyler Kinley or offer him back to the Marlins, they also are monitoring the Angels’ roster cuts to see whether Luke Bard will stick in Anaheim. The Angels selected the former first-rounder from the Twins in the same Rule 5 draft, and if he doesn’t make the major-league roster, Los Angeles would be obliged to offer him back to the Twins.
Still a few moves to be made before the Twins head north on Monday, in other words. For now, they’ve got the Astros visiting today, though because Houston is playing two games today, don’t expect many of the world champions to be on the long bus ride.
Here are the lineups for today’s game at Hammond Stadium, with Lance Lynn making his final Grapefruit League start. (He’ll stay back next week to pitch in a minor league game, since his first regular season start is April 2 in Pittsburgh.) The lineup originally included all nine of the Twins’ Opening Day starters, but Jason Castro was scratched about 90 minutes before game time, for reasons still unknown:
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