Filling out the starting rotation
Two weeks from Sunday, the Twins will be back at Target Field, preparing for the April 1 season opener. So manager Ron Gardenhire is locking in on how he wants his roster to look.
Righthanders Cole De Vries, P.J. Walters, Liam Hendriks and Samuel Deduno are in the running for the final two spots in the rotation — one of which will eventually go to Scott Diamond when he’s built up enough arm strength following minor elbow surgery in December.
De Vries struggled Saturday while giving up one run over three innings in a 2-1 victory against Pittsburgh. He fell behind many batters and said he didn’t feel 100 percent. “I was happy I got out without too much damage,’’ he said, “but I felt a little numb out there today. That was evident in the two walks.’’
De Vries, with a 0.90 ERA this spring, is very much in the race.
And if you were wondering what limiting Team USA to one run over four innings on five hits, a walk and seven strikeouts did for Deduno on Thursday, it did a lot.
“He’s definitely got his hat in the ring,” Gardenhire said. “Probably more toward the center of the ring. That was pretty good what he’s done.’’
And one of the four could land in the bullpen as a long reliever.
The chances that Jim Thome joins the team as a bench bat appear to be very slim.
“I would doubt there would be any outside solutions,’’ Gardenhire said.
So he was pleased in the ninth inning Saturday when Wilkin Ramirez walked and went to second on a wild pitch, Jeff Clement walked against a lefthander and Brandon Boggs singled in Ramirez with the lead run.
“These are the guys you are looking at as a spot off that bench,’’ Gardenhire said. “A pinch hitter role, extra player role. All three came up and did something.’’
• Outfielder Oswaldo Arcia got a late start to spring training because of a strained left intercostal muscle. Arcia batted .188 in five games before he was optioned Saturday. He’s expected to make this major league debut sometime during the regular season. “We need to get him at-bats,’’ general manager Terry Ryan said.
• The Twins signed first baseman Curt Smith to a minor league contract and will likely assign him to Class AA New Britain. Smith, 26, batted .261 with 9 homers and 48 RBI in 96 games at Class AA Jacksonville of the Marlins chain. Smith, born in Willemstad, Curacao, is batting .375 through seven WBC games for the Netherlands .
The Twins head to Sarasota on Sunday to face Baltimore. Rigthander Vance Worley is scheduled to start for the Twins, while righthander Steve Johnson gets the start for the Orioles. First pitch is at 12:05 p.m. Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau will be on the trip. Lefthander Glen Perkins, who’s returning from World Baseball Classic duty with Mauer, might take the trip too because he has been inactive for a few days and the Twins want him to pitch.
LA VELLE E. NEAL III