The Twins on Thursday released a list of 22 players they will invite to spring training, including some interesting candidates for openings in the bullpen and as backup outfielders.
Lefthander Fernando Abad was signed to a minor league deal on Wednesday night, just in time to be included on the list. After a strong 2014 season with Oakland in which he posted a 1.57 ERA in 69 games, Abad saw his 2015 season go sideways. He had a 4.15 ERA and gave up 2.1 home runs and walked 3.6 batters per nine innings. After holding lefthanded hitters to a .191 batting average in 2014, they hit .277 off him last season.
“You know how relievers are,” Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said. “A lot of them go in cycles. Sometimes you hit a [good] one, and hopefully that will be the case with him.”
Abad, who turned 30 on Thursday, has pitched in six different seasons with Houston, Washington and Oakland. The Twins spoke to Abad’s agent, Barry Praver, during the winter meetings last week and continued talks from there.
“He’s not a situational pitcher,” Ryan said. “We think he can pitch innings. He’s got a pretty good feel for a changeup.”
One thing the Twins are encouraged about is that Abad has struck out at least 8.0 batters per nine innings in each of the past two seasons. He’ll join Buddy Boshers, Dan Runzler and Aaron Thompson as lefthanded relievers in camp.
The group of invitees also includes outfielder Ryan Sweeney, a veteran of nine seasons and 682 games that the Twins have tracked since his high school days in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Sweeney didn’t play last season after being released by the Cubs in early April.
Two other outfielders are in their second stint with the Twins in Darin Mastroianni and former second-round pick Joe Benson.
Ryan said he continues to look for upgrades as the Twins prepare for spring training. Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report on Feb. 21, the rest of the squad on Feb. 26.
Former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has been unable to hook on with a major league club for 2016, but he might be employed elsewhere.
According to a FoxSports.com post on Twitter, the German baseball federation has contacted Gardenhire about managing its national team for a World Baseball Classic qualifier in March. The next WBC is scheduled for 2017. Gardenhire, who was born in Butzbach, West Germany, would be a high-profile hire for a country that is a minnow in the baseball world.
His son, Toby, played for Germany in 2012, the last time it tried to qualify.
Outfielder Max Kepler, who was born in Berlin and is one of the Twins’ top prospects, could end up being part of the German team.