PORT CHARLOTTE, FLA. – Willians Astudillo had an eventful day on Wednesday. He started at third base against the Rays and turned a couple of ground balls into outs. After a few innings, he switched to catcher, caught a pop-up, and just missed throwing out an incautious baserunner with a no-look snap throw to first base.
He smacked a line drive to center field, just past the Rays' diving shortstop Greg Jones, bringing home two Twins runs. And perhaps weirdest of all for the contact-centric Astudillo, he watched four straight pitches go by for a walk in the Twins' Grapefruit League victory.
"He does not lack confidence," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said of his most adaptable player, a 29-year-old Venezuelan who has started more than four consecutive games only once in his career, yet somehow seems to be in the middle of everything when he does.
For the fourth straight season, Astudillo comes to camp without a guaranteed job, without a defined role, without anything but a cross-your-fingers chance of making the Twins' roster. And for the fourth straight season, he's making it hard for his manager not to include him in the team's plans eventually.
"Willians is very proficient, all around the field," Baldelli said of Astudillo, who is 4-for-9 with two walks so far this spring. "I mean, we saw him over at shortstop [on extreme shifts], making plays. … He's very comfortable [moving around]. He wants to play shortstop and center field. I don't know if we're going to see all of that, but he's always ready."
Astudillo's most direct route to a roster spot is behind the plate, though Mitch Garver and Ryan Jeffers are ahead of him. But "I would think there will be times this year when we are going to be carrying three catchers," Baldelli said. "Could it be opening day? Absolutely. … We could see him all over the field, and I feel very comfortable regardless of where we start him."
Three coaches cut loose
The Twins parted ways with three minor league coordinators on Wednesday, with a source confirming that hitting coordinator Donegal Fergus, infield coordinator Billy Boyer and catching coordinator Michael Thomas are no longer with the organization.
The team "declines to comment on personnel matters," a spokesman said, but the Twins have no plans to hire replacements immediately.
Fergus, a former assistant coach at UC-Santa Barbara and the University of Washington, was beginning his second season with the Twins. Thomas, who coached at Virginia Tech and his alma mater, Kentucky, also served as hitting coach at Class AA Pensacola in 2019; he was in his fourth season with the Twins. Boyer, in his third season as an infield and baserunning instructor with the Twins, also coached at Seattle University.
With three home games over the next four days, Baldelli said he's about ready to begin cutting down the 74-player roster, which must be down to 26 by the April 1 opener. "It's probably a matter of days," Baldelli said. "You can't wait until the very end of spring to do those things. It's coming fairly soon."
It's mostly a matter of informing players that they won't be among the 26, and letting them know where they will spend April — either in Fort Myers during minor league camp, or St. Paul, as part of the Twins' unit of extra players available for call-up to the majors. A few might also be released.
• Andrelton Simmons faced pitchers Jhoan Duran, Andrew Albers and Tom Herkimer during live batting practice on Wednesday, did a full workout at shortstop, and remains on track to make his spring debut later this week, Baldelli said.
• Max Kepler smashed a line drive up the middle during live batting practice, a rocket that Albers had to jump to avoid. Kepler immediately apologized for the near-miss, but Albers shouted back, "Don't be sorry! That's a great swing!"