The Twins likely will open the season with four starting pitchers and eight relievers on the 25-man Opening Day roster, knowing they won't need a No. 5 starter until April 15.
Scott Baker could begin on the 15-day disabled list with fellow starting pitcher Jason Marquis on the bereavement list.
Baker is trying to overcome right elbow tendinitis and will pitch in a minor league game Saturday instead of a Grapefruit League game, which would allow the Twins to backdate a possible DL stint to March 27.
"I'm hoping we don't have to do that," General Manager Terry Ryan said. "Let's hope he throws the ball good Saturday."
Marquis has been in Staten Island, N.Y., tending to his 7-year-old daughter, Reese, who was in a serious bicycle accident. Players can spend between three and seven days on the bereavement list, giving teams roster flexibility.
"He needs to take care of his family, and we'll get him back down here and see where we're at," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "But throwing to high school kids [in New York] is not the same as throwing down here. So we're going to have to be careful with this."
For the first four games, the Twins could use Carl Pavano, Francisco Liriano, Nick Blackburn and Liam Hendriks.
Anthony Swarzak and Matt Maloney are other options to start if Baker or Marquis has an extended absence. Swarzak tossed 3¹/ hitless innings against the Orioles in Tuesday's start, and Maloney held the Pirates to one run over three innings in Thursday's start.
Burnett on bubble
The Twins expected Alex Burnett to land an Opening Day job, especially now with eight relief jobs available, but he had another poor inning Thursday. Burnett has a 7.00 ERA. Asked if he has time to turn it on, Gardenhire said: "Yeah, three weeks ago. We'll figure it out. It's not good though. It's got to be better than Thursday]. The game stopped again."
With Kyle Waldrop shut down because of a strained right elbow, other challengers for relief spots behind Matt Capps, Glen Perkins, Brian Duensing and Anthony Swarzak include Maloney (0.63 ERA), Jared Burton (1.80), Jeff Gray (1.93) and Casey Fien (1.93).
• Infielder Alexi Casilla was scratched from the lineup because of stiffness behind his right knee, but Ryan said he didn't think it's serious.
• Danny Valencia got beaned in the back of his neck by Pirates starter James McDonald in his first plate appearance, but the third baseman remained in the game.
Trevor Plouffe (strained right hamstring) went 6-for-7 with a double and three home runs over the past two days in Class AAA games. He will play right field Friday against the Red Sox at Hammond Stadium. Blackburn will start that game for the Twins, with Hendriks starting for their split-squad team against the Blue Jays in Dunedin, Fla.