FORT MYERS, Fla. – Josmil Pinto and Jason Kubel locked up roster spots, Matt Guerrier and Michael Tonkin failed to win them, and Jason Bartlett has a few more days to convince the Twins’ decision-makers that he’s worth one again.
Minnesota’s roster is much clearer after 10 players were let go on Monday, leaving them with 29 players less than a week before Opening Day in Chicago. Still to be determined: the fate of Scott Diamond, the apparent odd man out in the fifth-starter competition; who will back up Joe Mauer at first base, Chris Parmelee or Chris Colabello; which utility infielder comes north, Bartlett or Eduardo Escobar; and when Rochester catcher Dan Rohlfing will be returned to Class AAA.
“Three more players, one more pitcher [to cut] — that’s where we’re at,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “And none of them is going to be easy. There’s a lot of conversation about all of them.”
Guerrier, whose recovery from forearm surgery limited him to only four appearances this spring, was given his release, but he might not be gone for good. By cutting ties before Tuesday, the Twins saved a $100,000 “retention fee” and allowed the 34-year-old veteran, whom they determined was not going to make the final roster, to search for a major league job.
“If he wants to sign with us, we’ll take him back at Rochester so he can continue his progression back to the big leagues,” assistant general manager Rob Antony said. “His arm strength is fine; he needs to refine, a little bit, the breaking ball. He’s thrown mainly fastballs down here in game situations. We still like him, we still think he could help this team later this year, but not right out of camp.”
Same for Tonkin, who did not allow a run in seven spring outings; Ryan Pressly, who spent all of 2013 in Minnesota; and non-roster relievers Aaron Thompson, Matt Hoffman and Deolis Guerra. “[Tonkin] threw the ball well, but we’re in a good situation with our bullpen, where everybody we’d like to keep, we couldn’t,” Antony said. “We sent a lot of guys out of here that in other years would have made this club.”
In other years, Bartlett did make this club, but his 3-for-34 spring probably has cost the veteran infielder a major league job right now. But Bartlett and the Twins agreed to delay his “out-clause” decision on whether to declare free agency until Friday, giving him a few more days to try to unseat Escobar. Escobar, though, clearly has the edge, because Antony mentioned him as the team’s “emergency-only” third catcher.
They’ll need one after optioning Chris Herrmann to Rochester (and they’ll almost certainly send Rohl-fing there later this week). The Twins will go with two catchers for now, and Pinto, whose Class AAA experience amounts to only 19 games, earned the job because “I want to see him up here swinging right now,” Gardenhire said. “We believe it’s going to be a great experience for him with [Kurt] Suzuki. And we need offense.”
That need has helped Kubel resume his Twins career, too, and the team is expected to add him to the roster Tuesday.
Parmelee and Colabello is more of a tossup, with the latter’s righthanded bat and 12 hits this spring offset by the fact that Parmelee is out of options. It’s conceivable that both could remain, if the Twins decide to cut ties with speedy center fielder Alex Presley.
Diamond’s status is unknown; after being beaten out by Kyle Gibson and Samuel Deduno for the final spots on the pitching staff, the lefthander could either be traded or put on waivers, available to be claimed by any other team.