FORT MYERS, FLA. – Most roster projections have Eduardo Nunez opening the season among the Twins’ 13 position players. The fact he was offered arbitration and settled for $1.025 million would seem to affirm that.
Nunez doesn’t offer much in the field, neither around the infield nor on his occasional forays into the outfield last season.
Much depends on Kennys Vargas. If the Twins go with him as the designated hitter, all opportunities to start for a backup infielder will go to Eduardo Escobar. And that would make Nunez redundant as an extra player.
If Vargas doesn’t make enough contact during the last two weeks of exhibitions, he probably would go back to the minors, Escobar would DH with some frequency, and Nunez could be helpful.
Either way, my guess is that Chris Herrmann is going to be on the club — as a spare outfielder, catcher and first baseman if Vargas isn’t on the opening 25, and ahead of Nunez if Vargas opens as the DH.
Let’s say Kennys makes it. That would put Big V in the regular lineup with Kurt Suzuki, Joe Mauer, Brian Dozier, Danny Santana, Trevor Plouffe, Oswaldo Arcia, Torii Hunter and (in his last chance) Aaron Hicks.
That would leave a bench of Escobar, Josmil Pinto, Jordan Schafer and Herrmann.
The Twins have started with four-man benches over the past four awful seasons, and then switched to a three-man bench as soon as there was a hint of stress on the bullpen.
Paul Molitor seems more determined to limit his pitchers to 12 (rather than 13) than did Ron Gardenhire during those 92- to 99-loss seasons. Gardy’s recent benches out of spring training:
2011-Drew Butera, Matt Tolbert, Jason Repko, Luke Hughes. 2012-Butera, Hughes, Alexi Casilla, Sean Burroughs. 2013*-Escobar, Jamey Carroll, Darin Mastroianni, Wilkin Ramirez. 2014-Pinto, Escobar, Jason Kubel, Jason Bartlett.
(*Note: Ryan Doumit opened the 2013 season as both the backup catcher and a frequently used DH.)
Schafer can steal a base, Pinto can hit a home run, Herrmann can provide insurance, and Escobar can be a super sub, so this would seem better.
Plus Three from Patrick
Underdogs who could open the season in the Twins bullpen:
LH Aaron Thompson, 28: Twins were his fourth organization when he signed for 2012. Moved to bullpen in 2013 and lefty hitters don’t like him.
RH Blaine Boyer, 33: Six organizations, plus Japan League. Retired in 2012, came back in 2013. Scouts would say: “Throws heavy ball.’’
RH Mark Hamburger, 28: Signed from Twins’ 2007 tryout camp. Three other clubs, plus St. Paul Saints. Mid-90s and split-finger that dives.