Roster limit set; fallout is next
The Twins will carry 12 pitchers this season, manager Ron Gardenhire said Saturday, not the 13 they kept on their roster nearly all of last season, a limit that will affect who makes the team and what roles they have.
For instance, if a starting pitcher who was squeezed out of the rotation — Samuel Deduno, most likely — inherits one of those bullpen slots, Anthony Swarzak might relinquish his role as long reliever and switch to more typical one-inning outings.
Or not. "Swarzie's really good in that role. He's been very good for us, he's been resilient. He can come back in a couple of days after throwing 30 or 40 pitches," Gardenhire said of the righthander, who posted a 2.91 ERA in 91 innings last year. "I don't know if you send a starter out there, if he's going to be able to do that."
Swarzak has a 5.87 ERA after allowing a run over two innings Saturday, but his job, from the sound of Gardenhire's comments, appears safe. "He's going to be in the pen, and then we kind of ad-lib from there," Gardenhire said. "He could be long, which he's very good at, or he could move up for some seventh innings."
There don't appear to be enough roster spots for every veteran, though; a seven-member bullpen, especially if a starter is sent there, means at least one experienced reliever is facing a demotion or a cut.
Glen Perkins, Casey Fien, Jared Burton and Swarzak seem safe, with Caleb Thielbar probably on that list as well. Add a starter, and Matt Guerrier and Ryan Pressly are competing for one spot — and it could go to Michael Tonkin and his 0.00 ERA instead.
Guerrier or Kubel?
The Twins have until Tuesday to decide whether Guerrier and Jason Kubel will make the team, but both have essentially agreed to accept a minor league assignment if they don't. Under major league rules, nonoster veterans must be paid a $100,000 "retention fee" if they aren't added to the 25-man roster or released by then, unless they have clauses in their contracts making them free agents. Guerrier and Kubel don't, assistant general manager Rob Antony said, meaning the Twins could keep them at Class AAA Rochester until June 1, when they have the right to declare free agency.
Jason Bartlett's contract does have an "out" clause (and he's not eligible for the retention money because he wasn't in baseball last year), though the utility infielder has sounded willing to accept an assignment to Rochester, at least temporarily, if he doesn't make the major league team.
•Dakota Watts, who spent five seasons as a relief pitcher in the Twins minor league system, was released on Saturday. A 16th-round draft pick by the Twins in 2009, Watts posted a career 3.85 ERA, but "he kind of hit a wall," Antony said. "We have a pretty good logjam, and you get to a certain point where, if he's not going to elevate to Triple-A, it's not really fair to him, either."
The Twins' final trip out of Fort Myers this spring takes them to Clearwater, where Phil Hughes will face Phillies righthander Kyle Kendrick.