FORT MYERS, FLA. — After losing 99 games a year ago, the Twins knew changes had to be made. And that is what has happened as they settle on an Opening Day roster.
Sunday, they reassigned four players to the minor league camp. Two others -- starting pitchers Scott Baker (disabled list) and righthander Jason Marquis (bereavement list) -- are not expected to be with the team during the early part of the season, meaning the Twins essentially have their roster set.
When they take the field on Friday in Baltimore, there will be 14 players on the roster who weren't on it on Opening Day a year ago. That group includes righthander Liam Hendriks and first baseman Chris Parmelee, two prospects who had little chance of making the club when camp opened.
Some of the turnover brings in players who saw plenty of time during the 2011 season, such as Luke Hughes, Anthony Swarzak and Ben Revere. But the roster shakeup will be evident during the announcement of the starting lineups Friday when free agents Ryan Doumit, Josh Willingham and Jamey Carroll trot out to the foul line at Camden Yards and Michael Cuddyer (signed with Colorado), Jason Kubel (signed with Arizona) and Tsuyoshi Nishioka (demoted to Class AAA Rochester) do not.
"This camp has been pretty smooth," Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said. "So we've got the 25 we're comfortable with right now, but as we know, that roster's fluid. Last year, all heck broke loose about a week in, so let's see how this thing unfolds, and let's see if we've got the right pieces together here, and it looks like we've got the right chemistry and makeup."
The Twins began Sunday by reassigning infielders Brian Dozier and Brian Dinkelman, catcher J.R. Towles and righthander Casey Fien to minor league camp. Baker will start for Class A Fort Myers on Thursday as he builds up arm strength. Marquis is expected to rejoin the team as early as Monday after missing two weeks to care for his 7-year old daughter, Reese, who was seriously injured in a bicycle accident. Marquis has been throwing on the side while at home in New York, but the Twins anticipate him needing more time to prepare for the season. That gets the roster down to 25.
The moves confirm that Sean Burroughs will make the team as a reserve. He still needs to be officially added to 25-man roster, which must happen before the 4 p.m. Wednesday deadline to submit a roster for the regular season. But it's a formality.
Burroughs was 1-for-4 on Sunday and is batting .333 in Grapefruit League action. The 31-year-old figures to be the Twins' top pinch hitter and a backup to Danny Valencia at third base.
It's another step forward for Burroughs, who battled substance abuse and didn't play baseball for three years before returning to the majors last year with Arizona. This will be his first time on an Opening Day roster since 2005.
"It's been seven years. It's emotional. It's everything,'' he said. "Right now, I can look forward to it and play it in my head. It's going to be an experience. It's going to feel like my first time again, to tell you the truth. It's been seven years now. So I'm going to really relish in it. I'm going to take it slow and try to remember everything that happens with it and try to have fun with these guys."
Parmelee, who homered Sunday for the Twins' only run in a 5-1 loss to Boston, was a darkhorse candidate to make the club. He is batting .290 and tied for the team lead with five home runs. With Justin Morneau expected to spend a lot of time as the designated hitter, the door opened for Parmelee to get time at first base and some in right field.
Most of Gardenhire's conversations with players over the past week have ended with them packing and leaving Hammond Stadium for the nearby minor league camp. He was able to have a different kind of talk with Parmelee on Sunday.
"Those are the good ones," Gardenhire said. "Those are fun."