FORT MYERS, FLA. – The Twins started this spring training with 40 players on the big-league roster, 21 players invited to camp on minor league contracts, and 14 minor leaguers labeled "depth players.''
That add-on was a reaction to the fact the camps for the four minor league teams that usually open early this month have been virus-delayed until the Twins leave here on March 30.
There was a paperwork shuffle on six pitchers Sunday morning, with prospects on the 40-player roster,Jordan Balazovic, Dakota Chalmers, Jhoan Duran and Bailey Ober, optioned, and veterans Danny Coulombe and Ian Gibaut reassigned to the minors.
The most intriguing pitchers on the "depth'' roster have been Matt Canterino and Josh Winder, right-handers deemed to be strong candidates to be future assets to a Twins rotation.
Winder is 6-foot-2, listed at 210 pounds, 24 last October, and drafted in the seventh round out of Virginia Military Institute in 2018. Canterino is 6-foot-2, listed at 222 pounds, 23 last December, and drafted in the second round out of Rice's strong program in 2019.
Winder was in low-A Cedar Rapids for 21 starts in 2019, went 7-2 in 21 starts with a 3.08 ERA. He had 118 strikeouts in 125 2/3 innings.
Canterino pitched twice in the Gulf Coast rookie league after signing in 2019 for a $1.1 million bonus. He was allowed to skip Elizabethton, Tenn., the second rung of rookie play, and headed to Cedar Rapids.
The Twins limited Canterino's innings substantially, with 20 in five starts. The ERA was 1.35 and he had 25 strikeouts in those 20 innings.
The inability to continue the progress of prospects such as Canterino with the canceled minor leagues in 2020 was a blow to all baseball organizations. The Twins wound up adding him in September to the "alternate-site'' extras working out at CHS Field in St. Paul.
Canterino and Winder developed a friendship in Cedar Rapids. And they have become a tandem here as depth pitchers.
Winder pitched a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts on March 2. Five days later, they each pitched a scoreless inning. Canterino had two strikeouts and Winder one K, with two walks.
More interesting, on Saturday, most of the Twins' regulars remained in Fort Myers as the Twins went to Port Charlotte to play Tampa Bay. And it was arranged for Canterino and Winder to throw live batting practice to primarily big-league hitters.
No cage for this. Throwing to a catcher. Four pitches to each hitter. After five hitters, Canterino or Winder would go sit in the dugout and would be replaced by the other.
The intention was to emulate an in-game inning. The half-dozen hitters came and went. The pitchers stayed for only two innings, and a total of 80-some pitchers total, but it was instructive – at least for the personalities of the prospects.
They might be buddies, but I'm guessing if they reach the big leagues at roughly the same time, you're going to be seeing and hearing a much higher quantity of quotes from Canterino.
This is my 46thspring training (gulp!) and, in that time, I can't recall watching a batting practice session with the pitcher as talkative and seeking as many opinions as did Canterino in his two "innings' of work.
He threw a fastball and asked, "Did that jump on you just a little bit?'' Before a hitter could answer, catcher Ben Rortvedt said, "Yes, that jumped,'' with reassurance.
Canterino commented and analyzed pitches at about the same percentage as does Justin Morneau on a Twins' telecast – meaning, almost all.
Canterino threw a low fastball on the outside corner that caused a no-swing by a lefthanded hitter. "That's the one right there.'' After a missed breaking pitch on what would've been an 0-2 count, he said, "I thought you'd be in a swing mode.''
The righthander from Southlake, the athletic factory in the suburbs of Dallas-Ft. Worth, throws off so much energy that he made a routine batting practice session a hoot.
Winder, meantime, might have totaled 10 words from the mound during his quota of pitches.
Asked if observing the dynamics and personalities of fresh prospects was part of the appeal of a new spring training, even in these strange COVID conditions, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said:
"We're getting used to them, and they're getting used to us. That's what has to happen. These are two very different personalities, but also with big, big ability.
"We're watching those young guys down here, and we're impressed."