FORT MYERS, FLA. - Even though the Twins signed Sidney Ponson to a minor league contract, they expect him to win a job in the starting rotation, manager Ron Gardenhire said Wednesday.
"I view [Ponson] being one of our starters," Gardenhire said. "I expect him to step up and take one of those jobs. Whether it happens or not is totally up to him."
Spring training will create a wide-open competition behind ace Johan Santana, of course.
But in a perfect world, the Twins would like to break camp with veterans Carlos Silva, Ramon Ortiz and Ponson behind Santana.
That would leave youngsters Boof Bonser, Scott Baker, Matt Garza, Glen Perkins and Kevin Slowey to compete for a fifth spot.
"We've got a lot of young pitchers in our system," General Manager Terry Ryan said. "We don't want to expose too many of them at once. We don't want to do something to stunt their growth."
Ortiz, 33, is a virtual lock to make the rotation. The Twins guaranteed him $3.1 million in a one-year major league contract. Ponson, 30, will make $1 million only if he makes the major league roster, and he can earn up to $2 million in incentives.
The Twins want their young pitching prospects to bid for spots in the starting rotation without getting overwhelmed with the pressure.
Ryan noted that the team used 10 different starting pitchers last year. So the youngsters' time should come.
"It makes them work harder to change our minds," Gardenhire said. "You're not going to have to worry about these guys; they are going to pitch in the big leagues.
"You're looking for a few veterans so that you can give a bit more time to some of these young arms.
"But if that doesn't happen, as we've said all along, and it doesn't look like it's going to work out [with the veterans], then we go the other route."
Cuddyer is content
The Twins couldn't come to an agreement on a multiyear contract extension with Michael Cuddyer and nearly went to arbitration before settling on a one-year, $3.575 million deal.
But Cuddyer said the process left him with no hard feelings toward Ryan.
"Mr. Ryan, from Day One, has always been in my corner," Cuddyer said. "Even when not too many people were in my corner, he was always there. This arbitration process would never make me lose respect for him as a person and as a GM, or this organization. I understand that this is a process, and it's not an attack against one particular person."
With his visa problems cleared up, Ortiz now plans to travel from the Dominican Republic to Fort Myers today and participate in Friday's workout.