FORT MYERS, Fla. — One night after showcasing his team’s future, Paul Molitor gets his first look at its present tonight. The Grapefruit League season opens at 6 p.m. CST (it’s televised on FSN) with the first of nine games against the Red Sox, and Molitor has penciled in nearly all of the Twins’ projected starters for tonight. In fact, all eight everyday positions will be manned by the favorite to hold each job this season, from the infield of Mauer-Dozier-Santana-Plouffe to the outfield of Arcia-Hicks-Hunter, with Kurt Suzuki behind the plate.
They’re not necessarily in the same order that they will be next month, Molitor made clear. For one thing, Torii Hunter would seem to be an unlikely choice as cleanup hitter.
Molitor said he doesn’t necessarily plan to use all the starters at once on a consistent basis, but figured everyone would like to be in the lineup right away. “I’ve tried to map out a little bit for some of our core players. talked to them about if they have any particular preference about approximate at-bats they want to have to start the season,” Molitor said. “I’ve seen guys who like to get 75, I’ve seen guys who like 50. It’s just kind of trying to start with a plan.”
That plan included using minor-league stars like Jose Berrios, Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano in last night’s exhibition game with the Minnesota Gophers, and that could hardly have gone better, with each of them making major contributions in the Twins’ 3-1 win. Kennys Vargas had a good game, too, smacking a run-scoring double in the first inning. Because he got to play last night, Vargas is the one projected starter not in the lineup tonight; Eduardo Escobar, fighting to keep his job at shortstop, fills in for him at designated hitter.
It’s also the left-field debut of Oswaldo Arcia, a transition that “I’m not expecting to be a huge deal,” Molitor said of the former right fielder. “It might even be a little bit of a relief for him at Target Field. Bot that it’s not spacious, but it’s a little bit more conventional.”
Here are the lineups for tonight’s Grapefruit League opener: