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.
FORT MYERS, FLA. -- Ron Gardenhire shook hands with Alexi Casilla as the former infielder walked by a little while ago. Then he discussed his own infield, which sounds eerily similar to those that Casilla played in: A lot of maybes.
Gardenhire tends to drop hints into his answers about players, so it was interesting to hear him discuss his options at third base if Trevor Plouffe -- out for a few days with a strained calf -- is injured again during the regular season. "It would be one of the utility guys right now, [like Jamey] Carroll," Gardenhire said of Plouffe's backup. Then he mentioned another utility candidate, Eduardo Escobar, but added a telling caveat. "Escobar, but if he's playing every day, we'd figure out somebody else."
Maybe it's overthinking it. Or maybe Brian Dozier and Pedro Florimon aren't so secure in the middle of the infield. Gardenhire went out of his way to compliment the 24-year-old Venezuelan, acquired from Chicago in the Francisco Liriano trade last July. "He's playing really well. Wherever I put him, he's playing really well," Gardenhire said. "So we'll just figure out what happens with the rest of them, and plug him in wherever we need to as we go along in the spring."
Something to keep in mind, anyway. Escobar is batting .367 this spring, has more hits (11) than anyone but Aaron Hicks, and is a smooth fielder. Florimon is at .222, Dozier at .226, for what that's worth. Admittedly, one 0-for-3 and 3-for-4 day, and their stats would reverse.
Escobar spent a half-hour this afternoon catching pitches from a pitching machine, getting ready for the grand super-utility experiment. It's clear Gardenhire is considering Escobar as an emergency catcher, on hand only in case Joe Mauer or Ryan Doumit get hurt during a game. That would free up a roster spot, the one held last year by Drew Butera, for a stronger pinch-hitter, which definitely appeals to the manager. "Another catcher is only a phone call away," he said. "He would only have to get you through nine innings, or whatever."
A couple of other notes:
-- Deolis Guerra was transferred to Tampa General Hospital today, in preparation for surgery to remove the first rib on his right side. That should give the artery more room, and the Twins hope will prevent further blood clots. No word yet on when the surgery will take place.
-- Justin Morneau is back from the World Baseball Classic, and sounds eager to get back to work. Had a good time, he said, and "I'll always remember" the moment when he was facing the USA battery of Glen Perkins and Joe Mauer.
-- As expected, Chris Parmelee is back in the lineup after a week off with a groin strain. Gardenhire is also still feeing Oswaldo Arcia at-bats before he heads to minor-league camp.
-- Kyle Gibson will pitch in relief today, after throwing in the bullpen on Monday. He lost his start to the Twins' off day on Tuesday. Gardenhire said the Twins will arrange their rotation in order after next Tuesday's off day, so we should know who the Opening Day starter is in a week. By my math, it's whoever starts on Friday, March 22, which would keep him on rotation to face Justin Verlander on April 1.
Tonight's lineups for a Fireworks Night game with the Orioles, who are starting three former Twins:
Orioles: Alexi Casilla 2B, Ryan Flaherty SS, Manny Machado 3B, Jason Pridie LF, Taylor Teagarden C, Travis Ishikawa 1B, Danny Valencia DH, Chris Dickerson RF, Trayvon Robinson CF. LHP Brian Matusz P.
Twins: Aaron Hicks CF, Brian Dozier 2B, Josh Willingham LF, Justin Morneau 1B, Ryan Doumit C, Chris Parmelee RF, Oswaldo Arcia DH, Eduardo Escobar 3B, Pedro Florimon SS. Kevin Correia P, followed by Casey Fien, Kyle Gibson, Josh Roenicke, Caleb Thielbar and Anthony Slama.
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