Phil Miller covered three seasons of Twins baseball, but that was at a different ballpark for a different newspaper. Now Miller returns to the baseball beat after joining the Star Tribune as the Gopher football writer in 2010, and he won't miss the dingy dome for a minute. In addition to the Twins and Gophers, Miller covered the Utah Jazz and the NBA for six years at The Salt Lake Tribune.

Could Nishioka move open door for Dozier to make Twins Opening Day roster?

Posted by: Phil Miller under Twins game coverage Updated: March 19, 2012 - 1:54 PM

FORT MYERS, FLA. -- The Twins have been looking at other team’s rosters for a utility player this spring, knowing Tsuyoshi Nishioka isn't ready for that role. And today's decision to send Nishioka to Class AAA Rochester, raises questions about who will fill that utility spot.

There are still candidates on the spring training roster, so don’t expect Twins General Manager Terry Ryan or Manager Ron Gardenhire to talk openly about the need to acquire someone else.

But unless the Twins are ready to bring Brian Dozier to the majors, letting him skip Class AAA, their current roster doesn’t have a polished major league ready utility player.

Luke Hughes will likely make the roster, but he can’t play shortstop in the majors. Trevor Plouffe is an outfielder now. One of the four bench spots will go to a backup catcher, likely Drew Butera.

If the Twins intend to keep Jamey Carroll as their starting shortstop and Alexi Casilla at second base, they need a utility player who can play shortstop. Candidates on the spring roster include Pedro Florimon, Ray Chang and Michael Hollimon.

Sean Burroughs is a candidate to make the bench, too, but so far all he has done is play third base.

The long-term answer seems clear to me: If the Twins would hand the starting shortstop job to Dozier, Carroll gives them an ideal utility infielder, and everything else falls into place. But knowing the Twins, they’ll want to let Dozier gain some more polish at Class AAA Rochester.

Dozier will get a long look in camp because he has yet to be placed on the 40-man roster, and the Twins don’t have to worry about an injury sending him to the major league disabled list, where he’d start acquiring service time.

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. Dozier wasn't on the original travel list for today's game against the Red Sox, but he has since been added.

Baker update

La Velle was on the scene as Scott Baker tested his right elbow in a bullpen session today, and the word is, Baker will be ready to pitch in a minor-league game Thursday. But it's still very possible that Baker will open the season on the DL and miss the first time through the rotation.

Plouffe update

Trevor Plouffe (strained right hamstring) pulled the same hamstring last year in Boston and returned after missing three games. He said he doesn't think this strain is even that severe.

Ryan on Dozier

Ryan addressed the media before the game. Asked about Dozier, the GM said:

“We’ve taken a lot of players from Double-A through the years. That’s not going to scare us off. If he looks like he’s mature enough, or any of these guys are ready enough. We’ve taken a lot of Double-A. [Dan Gladden] played on one of those not too long ago who won a World Series championship team [a reference to Chuck Knoblauch]. [Scott] Erickson. I’m not afraid of that and neither is Gardy. Mauer. Those are some pretty good players we’re talking about."

Would Dozier be a candidate for a utility role?

“That wouldn’t be my choice," Ryan said. "I don’t think it would do the kid any good to be a utility player in the Major Leagues.”

In other words, Dozier could still make the team, but it would have to be as a starter.

TWINS (10-8)
1. Denard Span, CF
2. Jamey Carroll, SS
3. Joe Mauer, 1B
4. Justin Morneau, DH
5. Josh Willingham, RF
6. Danny Valencia, 3B
7. Ryan Doumit, C
8. Ben Revere, LF
9. Alexi Casilla, 2B

Listed pitchers: Jason Marquis, Alex Burnett, Jared Burton, Anthony Swarzak, Jeff Manship.

RED SOX (9-4)
1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
3. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
4. Kevin Youkilis, 3B
5. David Ortiz, DH
6. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
7. Jason Repko, RF
8. Darnell McDonald, LF
9. Jose Iglesias SS

Listed pitchers: Felix Doubront, Mark Melancon, Andrew Bailey, Justin Thomas, Scott Atchison.

JetBlue Park. First pitch: 12:35 p.m. (Central). No TV. Twins Radio Network

Follow us on Twitter: @JoeCStrib @LaVelleNeal

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