La Velle E. Neal III has covered baseball for the Star Tribune since 1998 (the post-Knoblauch era). Born and raised in Chicago, he grew up following the White Sox and hating the Cubs. He attended both the University of Illinois and Illinois-Chicago and began his baseball writing career at the Kansas City Star. He can be heard occasionally on KFAN radio, lending his great baseball mind to Paul Allen and other hosts. Mark Rosen borrows him occasionally for WCCO-TV.

Twins postgame: Thoughts on the roster

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: April 1, 2012 - 6:16 PM

Before camp opened, I didn't see any way Chris Parmelee makes the team.

I also didn't expect to see three lefties in the bullpen.

Or Tsuyoshi Nishioka in the minors.

But the Twins didn't mess around with making sweeping changes following a 99-loss season. They pretty much have settled on a 25-man roster, and there will be 14 new faces from last year's roster to open the season. 

Several players were happy in the Twins clubhouse on Sunday.

"I feel like I've had a really good spring and I came into spring not exactly hoping... for anything, just coming and throw and see what happens,'' said Liam Hendriks, who will fill in for Jason Marquis, ``and it feels really good to be confirmed and stuff like this. I feel like I've had a really good spring and, hopefully, I can take it into the season.''

Hendriks was impressive, keeping the ball down for the most part and going after hitters. He was 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA this spring, one of wins coming against a Blue Jays team that has pounded on opponents. And the Twins are smart in letting it be known that he can remain in the rotation if he pitches well. That puts others on notice that they need to produce.

(Of course, we're assuming that Hendriks is going to take his strong spring into the regular season, which is dangerous to do)

It was great to listen to Sean Burroughs, who was truly thrilled to make the team as a bench player. He's had to fight the demons in recent years to get back to the majors.
 
“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.”

How good can this team be? I think the bullpen will be good. Jared Burton and Glen Perkins will be a good 8th inning duo. Matt Capps will blow eight saves but still be a solid closer. The offense can be functional if Nos. 7 and 33 remain in the lineup. The defense won't have the best range but should catch what it can get to.....most of the time.

That leaves the rotation. Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano have to lead the starters if the Twins are to be more than a .500 team. Baker already has elbow issues, and the Twins would be smart to let him take his time during his comeback. If he misses three starts, so what? What's important is having him for the next 30 starts. Baker can pitch, but he's got to be healthy.

Twins GM Terry Ryan told us this afternoon that he likes the way the roster has shaken out.

"We've got a little pop,'' he said. ``We've got a lineup that seems top have some depth to it. We've got some balance with left/right. We've got some speed. We've got the two big guys in the middle healthy.

"The three guys - Lirano and Blackburn and Pavano - have pitched very well this spring [THIS WAS BEFORE PAVANO'S OUTING ON SUNDAY] . Unfortunately Baker and Marquis are going to be left behind here for the time being. Usually the pitching and............you know what's been pretty solid has been the defense. It has been pretty good. People have been talking about (Jamey) Carroll. Carroll hasn't skipped a thing here as far as making the plays. Valencia is maybe a little tad quicker than what I saw in March last year. I think our defense is O.K."

We shall soon see.

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