While some teams have already named their Opening Day starter, Twins manager Paul Molitor said on Monday that he was, "not close,'' to doing so.
Molitor and pitching coach Neil Allen have to talk about the subject then map out the rotation. They can always juggle things early in camp to line up the rotation to their liking.
Righthanders Phil Hughes, Ervin Santana and Kyle Gibson are candidates to get the ball on Opening Day. Hughes got the nod last season, his first ever Opening Day assignment.
"I don’t mind doing that when it’s a slam dunk but I’m not sure we’re quite at that point yet,'' Molitor said. "Neil and I have talked about it, obviously, because you kind of have a tendency to work back from where you’re going to go. You can shuffle with that a little bit early on, if something emerges.''
Molitor said he has thought about his 2016 lineup but it not close to finalizing it. He knows that Brian Dozier should be somewhere in the top third, although he's not a prototypical hitter at any of those spots.
"Brian Dozier is a guy you want at the top of the lineup,'' Molitor said. "I’m not sure where he fits best. It’s not really a leadoff approach, it’s not really a two-hitter approach, it’s not really a three-hitter approach. But his body of work produces runs. So I have to try to figure out how that’s going to play out.''
Molitor added that he's not married to batting Joe Mauer third.
My guess: I would bat Dozier leadoff, Mauer second and Miguel Sano third. Those three hitters will draw the most walks, and Sano has a chance to put them ahead 1-0 in the first inning. The problem there is that Trevor Plouffe would likely have to be the cleanup hitter, which might not be a fit. Eddie Rosario would have to bat fifth to balance out the order, followed by Byung Ho Park.
The Hawk is back
LaTroy Hawkins, who pitched for the Twins from 1995-2003, is in camp as a special instructor. He spent part of his day talking with different groups of pitchers about the best ways to hold runners on base. The Twins are making this a huge priority in camp this year. Slide steps, pickoffs throws, the works.
But as pitchers warmed up, Molitor said the Hawkins remarked how weird it felt watching pitchers throw instead of being among them.
Hawkins pitched with the Twins from 1995-2003. He pitched for 11 different teams over a 21-year career that spanned 1,042 games.
There are no official restrictions on anyone at camp, but the club remains mindful that lefthander Mason Melotakis is coming back from Tommy John surgery in August of 2014. He didn't pitch at all last season but did throw some during instructional league. So the Twins will remain mindful that Melotakis, a second round pick in 2012 with fastball that tops 95 miles an hour, doesn't have much of a base under him.