FORT MYERS, FLA. – It's about that time.
Over the next few days, managers will craft their preferred lineups to start the season with. Relievers will work back-to-back games for the first time all spring. Equipment will begin to be loaded onto the truck — yes, it arrived here Friday — for the trip back to Minnesota.
And the Twins will decide which players will be on the Opening Day roster. The first roster assembled by Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey and General Manager Thad Levine. The first roster since a franchise-record 103 losses in 2016.
"I think that there has been good competition," manager Paul Molitor said. "A lot of guys in the mix have had outings where you kind of nod in approval, whereas at other times it has been a little more sketchy. We have some people who have some surrounding circumstances over their personal situation that might have to be included in how we proceed."
Now that the Puerto Rican players on the team have returned from the World Baseball Classic, the Twins can proceed with their final roster decisions. They still have a whopping 43 players left in camp with just over a week left.
So who makes the charter to the Twin Cities? Who makes the 500-yard walk to the minor league facility?
Position players basically set: The daily lineup might be most attractive aspect of Twins baseball this season. It's full of players with upside who took their lumps last season. Catcher Jason Castro will be only newcomer to the lineup.
The only competition is for designated hitter. Kennys Vargas played for Puerto Rico at the WBC and appeared in just three games, getting nine at bats. Meanwhile, ByungHo Park is batting .359 with four homers and nine RBI. Vargas hurt his chances by leaving camp, but Park is not on the 40-man roster, which could come into play when it's time for final roster decisions.
Molitor has repeatedly said that Park has not locked up anything. However, it's clear that the South Korean has the edge.
"Park has had a good camp," Molitor said. "You watch him, and he looks comfortable."
Bench roles might not change much: Robbie Grossman's spot in the bench appeared to be in danger, but the Twins like his ability to get on base and Molitor has said his defense has been better this spring. Will his right hamstring strain be healed by Opening Day? J.B. Shuck and Drew Stubbs are glove-first guys the Twins could look to if Grossman's injury lingers.
Eduardo Escobar has batted .289 this spring and should return as the utility player, although Ehire Adrianza can pick it and is batting .313. Chris Gimenez looks to be the choice as the backup catcher. Danny Santana can play the infield and outfield and can pinch run.
Mejia makes his move: Adalberto Mejia looked to be a long shot to make the rotation at the start of camp. But the lefthander has opened eyes with a 1.88 ERA and a fastball that reaches 95 miles per hour. Tyler Duffey is trying to rally after a shaky beginning. Trevor May is out for the year because of Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery. An opening appeared, and Mejia is taking advantage. "There's a lot to like," pitching coach Neil Allen said after Mejia's outing on Monday.
Assembling a seven-man bullpen tricky: The Twins sent the struggling J.T. Chargois to the minors Friday, a blow for a bullpen that can use a live arm. Brandon Kintzler will close. Ryan Pressly and Matt Belisle will help with set up duties. The lefthanders look to be Craig Breslow and Taylor Rodgers.
They wanted Ryan Vogelsong to be the long reliever, but he prefers to start and asked for his release. Michael Tonkin was clearly on the bubble early, but recent developments might have opened a spot for him. That leaves one spot for a handful of arms left in camp. Nick Tepesch or Duffey could stick as a long reliever.
With just over a week left in camp, the bullpen is where the Twins have their toughest decisions.
La Velle E. Neal III has covered the Twins for the Star Tribune since 1998. Twitter: @LaVelleNeal E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org