FORT MYERS, FLA. – He’s not a starting pitcher, but Gabriel Moya will start for the Twins on Saturday, in hopes it’s the start of something big.
Moya is one of two pitchers competing for the final spot in the Twins bullpen, and while his manager paints the assignment as simply his turn to pitch, it’s hard not to think of it as a closing statement in a spring case for staying.
And once the lefthander is finished with a potential two-inning stint? He can watch Tyler Kinley, the other candidate for that bullpen spot, make his case, too.
“We’ve been talking a lot about how it’s going to shape up. We’re in a position where we can get another day out of it, and whether that changes where we are or not — I don’t expect it to be a do or die,” manager Paul Molitor said. “We’re still trying to see how it fits together, and [decide] what look you want to have.”
The decision is complicated by Kinley’s status as a Rule 5 pick, which likely gives him an edge. If the Twins don’t keep the 27-year-old righthander, the hardest thrower in camp, on the 25-man roster, they must offer him back to the Marlins.
There’s another Rule 5 decision that the Twins are paying attention to this weekend. Luke Bard, a first-round pick of the Twins in 2012, is one of the final candidates for a spot in the Angels bullpen, and his situation is the same as Kinley’s. If Bard, who posted a 2.76 overall ERA at Class AA Chattanooga and AAA Rochester last season, doesn’t break camp with the Angels, the Twins can claim him back.
What of the outfield?
There is one other competition still ongoing as the Twins near their final roster. Six outfielders remain in camp, and there is only room for five — at the most.
Zack Granite is the best defender among the group, though like Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario, he is a left-handed hitter. Should the Twins decide to balance their outfield with a righthanded hitter, Ryan LaMarre has a shot at taking that job after a strong spring.
“[We’ve heard] about swing changes and different things that he’s doing. He’s had a nice camp,” Molitor said of the 29-year-old LaMarre. “He plays the outfield well, and he’s taken good at-bats all swing. … He’s got a little bit of a hockey player’s mentality.”
That leaves a spot for Robbie Grossman — or someone else. Grossman is a switch hitter whose platoon split last season was better when he batted lefthanded, but historically, he’s better batting righthanded. His defense isn’t as strong as the others, and he’s not a center fielder, but he’s good at drawing walks and getting aboard; his .361 on-base percentage was second on the Twins last year, behind only Joe Mauer.
But Grossman doesn’t hit for much power. The feeling in the clubhouse is that the Twins will keep an eye on the waiver wire this weekend, on the lookout for another hitter, probably one with righthanded power. It’s even possible they might have interest in Kennys Vargas, should Cincinnati waive him. Vargas was claimed by the Reds last week, but he’s an odd fit on a team with Joey Votto in a league without a designated hitter.
The Twins have a spot on the 40-man roster open now while Jorge Polanco serves his 80-game suspension.
Veteran infielder Erick Aybar, told Thursday that he wouldn’t make the team, decided against going to Rochester on Friday, his contractual opt-out day. He asked for and was granted his release.
The Twins’ final Grapefruit League night game is against the Orioles, their Opening Day opponent, in Sarasota.