CLEVELAND – Twins manager Paul Molitor pondered two lineups for Thursday’s game against the Indians. One was full of his regulars. The other, the one he preferred, included reserves.
Molitor got his wish. After the Twins clinched the second American League wild-card spot late Wednesday night, then had a champagne-soaked celebration, Molitor could go with his post-hubris lineup.
He also could remove his self-imposed ban on discussing the roster for Tuesday’s wild-card game, likely at Yankee Stadium. The Twins will move quickly to settle their roster for the winner-moves-on game and define roles.
“I feel better about having those conversations now,” Molitor said. “I know it is going to happen.”
Internal discussions have been ongoing, ranging from the size of the pitching staff to which bench players the Twins will have on hand Tuesday. Remember, this 25-man roster is just for one game, not any other playoff series.
One issue rising to the forefront is if injured slugger Miguel Sano will be available. He has not faced live pitching since Aug. 19 because of a stress reaction in his left shin, but hit at Target Field the second straight day Thursday and reported minimal pain in his shin.
“He had a good day,” Molitor offered. “I heard he was pain-free swinging.”
Sano recently visited specialists in New York and North Carolina to make sure the Twins were on the right path to recovery, but club officials indicated that the visits also were to ease any trepidation Sano had about aggravating the injury.
The Twins hope that Sano now has peace of mind to move forward. Molitor said there will be conversation Friday about scheduling a simulated game this weekend so he can face live pitching.
“The window is pretty small to get him ready to face this caliber of pitching after not doing it for six weeks or so,” Molitor said.
Derek Falvey, the Twins chief baseball officer, said all options are being considered, including having Sano on the bench if they need one big swing in the right situation.
“That’s not too far-fetched,” Falvey said.
Still, Molitor described Sano’s chances as a “long shot” given he hasn’t faced major league pitching since Aug. 19.
Other roster decisions include:
Which starter or starters go to the bullpen? Ervin Santana, who tuned up for Tuesday with five shutout innings Thursday, is the solid starter. Dillon Gee and Tyler Duffey have the ability to give the Twins a couple of innings out of the bullpen if they need it, but the Twins might move either Jose Berrios or Kyle Gibson into the bullpen for the wild card game, too. The other could start Game 1 of the Division Series on Thursday if the Twins advance.
The Twins have to determine if they already have enough length in their bullpen, then figure out who is best suited to suddenly become a reliever.
“We have options to carry extra starters,” Molitor said.
How many pitchers? Pitching coach Neil Allen said the club is still considering having 10 or 11 pitchers available for Tuesday. If the Twins take 10 pitchers, they already have a perfect fit for position players. Besides the nine starters, potential reserves are Zack Granite, Ehire Adrianza, Kennys Vargas, Niko Goodrum, Chris Gimenez and Mitch Garver. The decision likely boils down to Goodrum or an 11th pitcher.
If Sano is on the roster, the Twins likely will go with 10 pitchers, and Goodrum doesn’t make the squad.
“We have a pretty good idea,” Molitor said. “There are going to be a couple things at the end and how we finish up the last couple of spots, that could be open for discussion and debate.”