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TwinsCentric: Six spring training storylines

Posted by: Nick Nelson Updated: February 20, 2013 - 12:12 AM

Every year around this time the talk is about how hope springs eternal; how the slate is wiped clean and every team is 0-0; how every club is tied for first place.

For these 2013 Twins, optimism is noticeably subdued. For most people, a realistic form of “hope” involves approaching a .500 record and avoiding the cellar for a third straight year. The Twins have more question marks dotting their roster than perhaps any other team in the American League.

The odds are against them this season. Literally. Vegas set the over/under for Minnesota at 64.5 wins. Ouch.

There's too much talent on the roster to call this team hopeless, but in order to be true contenders in the AL Central, the Twins will need several core players to put forth optimal seasons. They’ll need prospects to emerge and make an impact. They’ll need multiple injury flyers to pan out.

Likely? Not especially. There's not much margin for error. But this is spring, so we can hope. Grapefruit League results and reports from Ft. Myers will give fans a window to the early progress of some players who could prove pivotal to this year's effort.

Here are six key storylines worth following over the next six weeks leading up to Opening Day:

1) Center field

Fittingly it will be the center of attention in the coming month, as three contenders vie for the billing as starting center fielder and, in all likelihood, leadoff man.

These are big cleats to fill. Nearly each man who has spent significant time roaming center field in Minnesota over the past decade – be it Torii Hunter, Carlos Gomez, Denard Span or Ben Revere – has gained notoriety with highlight reel catches and a dynamic offensive game.

It seems clear that ultimately the next in that line will be Aaron Hicks, who has all the skills necessary to generate excitement in the same way as those listed above. The only question is whether he’s ready, with no experience above Double-A. As such, he’ll be under a microscope in camp.

He’s likely the leading candidate right now, but if he falters the door will be wide open for Darin Mastroianni or Joe Benson. It will be interesting to see how Hicks responds to this pressure in what could be a defining point in his young career.

2) Who rounds out the rotation?

The new-comers are all but locked in. Kevin Correia and Vance Worley are sure bets to claim spots, and all reports indicate that Mike Pelfrey will surprisingly be at full tilt by the start of April. That leaves two rotation slots up for grabs, with organizational incumbents largely comprising the candidates.

Scott Diamond would have probably been Opening Day starter if recovery from elbow surgery hadn’t pushed back his timeline, leaving his status for the start of the season in doubt. Kyle Gibson and Liam Hendriks, the Twins’ best MLB-ready pitching prospects, are the leading contenders for the final two spots if Diamond can’t go, but Hendriks’ struggles last year and Gibson’s surgically repaired arm could come into play. Beyond these three, there are a number of fringe contenders – such as Brian Duensing, Nick Blackburn, Rich Harden, Sam Deduno and Cole DeVries – that cannot be discounted.

3) Keystone questions

We find four players in the middle infielder mix: Brian Dozier, Pedro Florimon, Jamey Carroll and Eduardo Escobar. It’s not a particularly intimidating assembly but the Twins seem comfortable with what they’ve got. At this point it appears that Ron Gardenhire favors Dozier and Florimon as starters, with Carroll and possibly Escobar serving in utility roles, but you’d have to assume that’s subject to change, based on the fact that neither Dozier nor Florimon has accomplished anything to earn the honor. No scholarships, right?

4) Pen pals

Every year there are a few spots at the end of the bullpen up for grabs and this year is no different. Beyond Glen Perkins, Jared Burton, Duensing and maybe Anthony Swarzak, this unit appears to be wide open. Last month, I ran through all the candidates to fill those remaining spots.

5) Rehab central

The Twins gambled on several pitchers recovering from major injuries during the offseason. Pelfrey is the headliner, and while all signs have been positive that's almost always the case in February. Still, he remains a far safer bet than Rich Harden, whose shoulder woes have limited him to 174 innings over the past three seasons, or Rafael Perez, a formerly dominant left-handed reliever who underwent his own shoulder surgery in September and will apparently be tried as a starter.

The chances of either Harden or Perez sticking in the rotation are extremely low, but both carry intriguing upside, even as potential bullpen options. The way they're throwing this spring should give us a good idea of what can realistically be expected.

6) How will the Opening Day roster shake out?

This will be dictated by health, performance and circumstance over the coming weeks. Here's my mid-February guess at how the roster and batting order will come together on April 1:

CF: Aaron Hicks
C: Joe Mauer
LF: Josh Willingham
1B: Justin Morneau
DH: Ryan Doumit
3B: Trevor Plouffe
RF: Chris Parmelee
2B: Brian Dozier
SS: Pedro Florimon

C: Drew Butera
IF: Jamey Carroll
IF: Eduardo Escobar
OF: Darin Mastroianni

SP: Vance Worley
SP: Kevin Correia
SP: Mike Pelfrey
SP: Liam Hendriks
SP: Kyle Gibson

RP: Glen Perkins
RP: Jared Burton
RP: Brian Duensing
RP: Casey Fien
RP: Alex Burnett
RP: Anthony Swarzak
RP: Rafael Perez


Minnesota 35 FINAL
Miami 37
Baltimore 13 FINAL
Houston 25
Detroit 20 FINAL
Chicago 14
Cleveland 13 FINAL
Carolina 17
Atlanta 30 FINAL
New Orleans 14
Green Bay 20 FINAL
Tampa Bay 3
Kansas City 12 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
New England 17 FINAL
NY Jets 16
NY Giants 37 FINAL
St. Louis 27
Buffalo 24 FINAL
Oakland 26
Indianapolis 7 FINAL
Dallas 42
Seattle 35 FINAL
Arizona 6
Denver 7:30 PM
Denver 6:00 PM
Portland 7:00 PM
Utah 7:00 PM
Toronto 7:00 PM
Atlanta 7:30 PM
LA Clippers 7:30 PM
San Antonio
Sacramento 9:30 PM
Golden State
Ottawa 6:00 PM
Nashville 6:00 PM
Pittsburgh 6:30 PM
Arizona 9:00 PM
San Jose 9:00 PM
Calgary 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Ark-Little Rock 1:00 PM
Brown 1:00 PM
Central Conn St
Stetson 1:00 PM
Florida State
Ill-Chicago 1:00 PM
Ohio 1:30 PM
George Washington
Southern Utah 2:00 PM
Ark-Pine Bluff
Elon 2:00 PM
Kennesaw St
Dartmouth 3:00 PM
Penn State
Green Bay 3:30 PM
UC Irvine
DePaul 3:30 PM
Lewis & Clark 4:00 PM
SC State 4:30 PM
Abilene Christian
Manhattan 5:00 PM
Truett-McConnell 5:00 PM
Ga Southern
Citadel 5:00 PM
Michigan State
Miami-Ohio 5:00 PM
Ohio State
Gardner-Webb 5:00 PM
Idaho 5:00 PM
Northern Ky
Fairfield 6:00 PM
North Dakota St 6:00 PM
Alcorn State
UT Martin 6:00 PM
SE Louisiana 6:00 PM
Oakland 6:00 PM
Florida A&M 6:00 PM
East Carolina
Eastern Ky 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
IUPU-Ft Wayne 6:00 PM
Illinois State
Norfolk State 6:00 PM
James Madison
Binghamton 6:00 PM
Mount St Marys
Towson 6:00 PM
Long Island 6:00 PM
New Hampshire
Northern Ill 6:00 PM
Notre Dame
William & Mary 6:00 PM
Old Dominion
Liberty 6:00 PM
Delaware 6:00 PM
Robert Morris
MD-Eastern Shore 6:00 PM
St Bonaventure
Colgate 6:00 PM
Kansas 6:00 PM
Mercer 6:00 PM
East Tenn St 6:00 PM
VA Commonwealth
Va Military 6:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Bucknell 6:00 PM
Wake Forest
Alabama A&M 6:00 PM
Western Mich
New Orleans 6:05 PM
Columbia 6:30 PM
Long Beach State 6:30 PM
St Johns
Wofford 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Southern U 7:00 PM
UAB 7:00 PM
Char Southern 7:00 PM
Colorado State
North Florida 7:00 PM
NC Central 7:00 PM
Jackson State
Rice 7:00 PM
Central Mich 7:00 PM
McNeese State
Coppin State 7:00 PM
Furman 7:00 PM
SE Missouri St 7:00 PM
Ole Miss
Weber State 7:00 PM
Grambling St 7:00 PM
Loyola-Chicago 7:00 PM
Texas Tech
Incarnate Word 7:00 PM
Penn 7:00 PM
Chicago State 7:00 PM
SIU Edwardsville
Simpson 7:05 PM
Tenn Tech 7:05 PM
Murray State 7:05 PM
Southern Ill
Oral Roberts 7:05 PM
Missouri State
Jacksonville St 8:00 PM
Air Force
Milwaukee 8:00 PM
Wisconsin 8:00 PM
Coll of Charleston 8:00 PM
North Dakota 8:00 PM
Northern New Mexico 8:00 PM
New Mexico St
UC Santa Barbara 8:00 PM
Miami-Florida 8:00 PM
Northeastern 8:00 PM
St Marys-CA
Kent State 8:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
UC Davis 8:00 PM
Northern Colorado
Lewis-Clark State 8:05 PM
Eastern Wash
Walla Walla 8:05 PM
Portland State
TX A&M-CC 9:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
Marshall 9:00 PM
Boise State 9:30 PM
UC Riverside 10:00 PM
San Diego St
Tulane 10:00 PM
Loyola Marymount 10:00 PM
Wichita State
Nebraska 12/23/14 12:00 AM
Nevada 3 FINAL
Louisiana 16
Utah State 21 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 6
(23) Utah 45 FINAL
Colorado State 10
Western Mich 24 FINAL
Air Force 38
South Alabama 28 FINAL
Bowling Green 33
BYU 1:00 PM
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 3:00 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
UMass Lowell 63 2nd Half 0:37
Holy Cross 78
Temple 35 2nd Half 7:53
Villanova 50
Georgia Southern 33 2nd Half
Southern U 21
Xavier 31 2nd Half
Kennesaw St 35
Eastern Michigan 23 2nd Half
Michigan 42
Brescia 12:00 PM
(21) West Virginia 1:00 PM
Ohio State
UMBC 1:00 PM
MD-Eastern Shore
Cornell 1:00 PM
St Bonaventure 1:00 PM
New Hampshire 1:00 PM
Eastern Washington 1:30 PM
Rice 2:00 PM
Texas Southern
Butler 3:05 PM
Illinois State
UC Davis 4:00 PM
(16) Stanford
Washington St 4:00 PM
Loyola Marymount
Sacramento St 4:00 PM
San Jose St
SIU-Edwardsville 4:30 PM
Oakland 6:00 PM
IUPU-Ft Wayne
Belmont 6:00 PM
(14) Georgia
George Mason 6:00 PM
Kansas 6:05 PM
Abilene Christian 7:00 PM
Kansas State
UT Martin 7:00 PM
Hampton 7:00 PM
Florida State 7:00 PM
Murray State 7:00 PM
Fla Gulf Coast 7:05 PM
Arkansas State
BYU 8:00 PM
Utah State
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