Tagged: Making the Team

Making the Team: Final Week

After just over five weeks of spring action and competitions, the Twins made final moves to complete their Opening Day roster. Five competitions in all have now come to a close, and the Twins will play three more spring games to prepare for their first test in Los Angeles next week.

Gone from the competition and the list this week is catcher Wilson Ramos, infielder Matt Tolbert, outfielder Jacque Jones, and pitchers Glen Perkins, Mike Maroth and Anthony Slama.

Opening Day 2010 is days away, and a new era in Twins baseball is coming right with it.

Player Chance Notes
Drew Butera (C)


Butera didn’t hit well this spring (.154 in 17 games), and he shouldn’t be expected to hit well during his stay up north. While Gardy seemed to like Wilson Ramos and his bat (.400 in 13 games), experience almost certainly was the deciding factor in brining Butera to the majors until Jose Morales is healthy. 
Alexi Casilla (IF) Lock.png Three players were up for the final bench spot, and Alexi Casilla came away with the spot seemingly by default. Jacque Jones hasn’t played in the majors in over a year, and Matt Tolbert had one option remaining. Despite a poor spring (.128 in 21 games), Casilla makes the team mostly because nobody stepped up to beat him, and partly because he would have been with another organization otherwise.  

Francisco Liriano (SP)


After pitching extremely well this past winter, Liriano seemed to take control in the competition for the final spot in the rotation as spring training began. While his competition for the spot wasn’t the best over the past month, Liriano would have been tough to beat with his performance: 6 games, 20 innings, 6 runs, 5 walks, and 30 strikeouts. 
Brian Duensing (SP)


Brian Duensing played a major role in the team’s success to close out the 2009 season. He struggled early on this spring, but his final outings were better and he’ll be a second left-handed option and long reliever out of the bullpen. Duensing ended his spring with a 4.50 ERA in 16 innings pitched.
Pat Neshek (RP) Lock.png Pat Neshek hadn’t faced live hitters in over 14 months when spring training began, and it seemed very likely that he’d get some extra work in through either extended spring training or minor league games before joining the Twins in Minnesota. Joe Nathan’s injury, combined with Neshek’s success on the mound (1.86 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 9.2 innings) put him on the Opening Day roster and in line to return from Tommy John surgery officially in April. 

Making the Team: Week 4

The final two weeks of spring training have arrived, and the races are heating up. All around, there seem to be deadlocks. At catcher, there is still no favorite to be Joe Mauer’s backup, the infielders fighting for the final bench spot are struggling, and there seems to be uncertainty in the team’s plans for the bullpen. 
Can guys like Mike Maroth or Anthony Slama sneak into the race down the stretch? Who might have the slight advantages in the seemingly deadlocked competitions? Who might pull away before the team breaks for two exhibition games at Target Field next weekend?

Player Chance Notes
Wilson Ramos (C) Through nine games and 22 total at-bats, Ramos has excelled. He’s seemed to be serviceable behind the plate with a strong arm, and the youngster is currently hitting .364 on the spring. Despite a lack of experience in the highest minor league level, Ramos seems to be getting a real shot from manager Ron Gardenhire to make the roster.  
Drew Butera (C) Butera has played in 12 games, but has fewer at-bats than Ramos nonetheless. In 18 at-bats this spring, the defensive-minded Butera has only a .167 batting average. It’ll be interesting to see if Butera’s experience help put him on the plane to Minneapolis next weekend.  
Alexi Casilla (IF) With even a decent spring, Alexi Casilla would be running away with the final bench spot. Instead, in 13 games and 18 at-bats, Casilla is hitting just .143 with six strikeouts. The one thing that may help him make the team and remain with the organization is his lack of options remaining. 
Matt Tolbert (IF) Since Matt Tolbert is struggling both at the plate and at times in the field, and since he has one more option, a deadlock in the final bench spot competition would almost certainly go to Tolbert’s competitor, Alexi Casilla. Unless he has an outstanding final two weeks, Tolbert seems to be headed to Triple-A Rochester to start the season. 
Jacque Jones (OF) Jacque Jones is getting ample playing time, and he’s taking advantage. In nine games this spring and a total of 22 at-bats, Jones is hitting .318 with decent plate discipline. It’s still a long shot for Jones to make the club, but it seems as though he’ll secure a spot at Triple-A Rochester.   

Francisco Liriano (SP) As spring training kicked off, the general feeling was that if Francisco Liriano pitched anywhere near the way he did this winter, he’d run away with the final rotation spot. Liriano is doing just that. In 10 innings, the lefty has allowed just three runs (2.70 ERA) and struck out 16 hitters. With almost complete certainty, Liriano will begin the 2010 season as the team’s fifth starter. 
Brian Duensing (SP) Despite some struggles and Liriano’s strong outings, lefty Brian Duensing still has a great shot at cracking the Opening Day roster. There are now two spots open in the bullpen with closer Joe Nathan’s injury, and Duensing could be the team’s second lefty if he can beat out Glen Perkins. Their numbers are nearly identical, so heading into the final weeks there is still time to shine and capture a roster spot. 
Glen Perkins (SP) Perkins has run into a minor injury and will miss a few days on the mound. Those days are potentially precious as he’s currently locked into a race with Brian Duensing. So far, along with Duensing, Perkins has a 9.00 ERA in seven innings. 
Pat Neshek (RP) At the start of spring training, it seemed as if Pat Neshek was primed for a start in either extended spring training or the minor leagues. He hadn’t pitched to hitters in over 14 months and needed to work back into game condition. Joe Nathan’s injury has opened another spot in the bullpen, and strong outings may give Neshek a better opportunity (although it’s still very possible he starts somewhere other than Minnesota). In six outings and six innings, Neshek has allowed one run (1.50 ERA) and struck out seven.
Mike Maroth (RP) It’s very hard to see Mike Maroth making the team out of spring training, but with decent outings, combined with the struggles of both Duensing and Perkins, he may have a small chance to sneak into the race down the stretch. In five games, Maroth has thrown seven innings, allowed three runs (3.86 ERA), and struck out one hitter.
Slama (RP)
Anthony Slama has shown fans why there is excitement surrounding his name. Through four innings, the young righty has been nothing short of dominant. He’s allowed no hits or runs and struck out eight. He’s not on the 40-man roster (though he could take Nathan’s place when he heads to the 60-day disabled list) and has thrown mostly to non major league players with his late-game appearances, so he appears to be a long shot despite his success. Nonetheless, he should debut sometime in 2010. 

Making the Team: Week 3

Week three of Making the Team brings with it only minor changes. There is still no favorite in the backup catcher competition, no infielders are stepping up to take the final bench spot, and it seems as though manager Ron Gardenhire is leaning toward Pat Neshek starting the year in either Triple-A or extended spring training. 

Player Chance Notes
Wilson Ramos (C) Ramos has hit well in 15 at-bats, posting a .400 batting average through six games. His defense seems to be serviceable, and it seems as if the Twins are giving Ramos a strong opportunity to compete with Drew Butera for the backup catcher role until Jose Morales can return. 
Drew Butera (C) Butera is going to need to beat Ramos with his defense and experience, because his bat isn’t anywhere near being flashy. Thus far, in only 12 at-bats, Butera has a .167 batting average.
Danny Valencia (3B) Danny Valencia will almost certainly be in Minneapolis at some point during the 2010 season, but it seems highly unlikely that he’ll be there when the team opens Target Field. With ample playing time thus far, Valencia has hit .286 in 14 at-bats and 8 total games.
Alexi Casilla (IF) Alexi Casilla has had a difficult spring at the plate, hitting just .111 in nine games. The Twins have given him ample at-bats (18) nonetheless, and he seems likely to make the Opening Day roster with no options remaining and his fellow competitor providing even less production.
Matt Tolbert (IF) Matt Tolbert’s current situation is simple: He has one option left and a trip to Triple-A seems likely. In 14 at-bats, Tolbert has no hits, and his defense hasn’t made up for a lack of plate production. He has made several defensive mistakes too.
Jacque Jones (OF) It’s hard to see Jones making the team out of camp, but with both Casilla and Tolbert playing poorly, there’s a chance. If the Twins are comfortable having one less infielder and Jones hits well in the final weeks, his chance could become a reality.   

Francisco Liriano (SP) Francisco Liriano continues to pull away with the final spot in the rotation with every spring appearance. In seven innings, Liriano has surrendered a few runs, but has walked only one batter while striking out 12 hitters. The closer role remains a possibility, but if he’s good enough for that role, he’ll serve the team better as a starter.  
Brian Duensing (SP) Only one lefty is currently in the bullpen, and with Nathan’s injury, another spot may now be available. If that spot remains open, Brian Duensing seems like a likely candidate to take a spot in the ‘pen and serve as an additional lefty and the team’s long reliever.
Glen Perkins (SP) Perkins has thrown 3.1 innings, given up 8 hits, and allowed 5 earned runs so far this spring. It isn’t quite the performance the Twins were hoping to see, and he isn’t doing the best job of showcasing himself for other teams. It’s hard to see him making the team with other candidates seemingly being better options, but it’s still possible.
Pat Neshek (RP) Neshek has thrown four solid, scoreless innings so far. Nonetheless, Gardenhire seems to be leaning toward Neshek starting in either Triple-A or extended spring training with his comments. Neshek hadn’t thrown in 14+ months and his velocity could still increase.  
Mike Maroth (RP) As stated before, Maroth will begin the season at Triple-A with almost complete certainty. His spring outings will continue to build his case for potential injury situations during the 2010 season.
Slama (RP)
Anthony Slama could potentially make the bullpen if the Twins don’t bring in another closer and Neshek begins the season somewhere other than Minnesota. Even if he doesn’t make the team however, he’s likely to make his debut this season, and his spring outings, much like Maroth’s, will build his case.  

Making the Team: Week 2

In the second week of Making the Team, a twist has altered some of the chances of cracking the Opening Day roster for several players. With Joe Nathan potentially out for the season, there are now seemingly two bullpen spots available rather than just one.

The extra spot could eventually help one of the two starting pitchers who fail to make the rotation, and Pat Neshek may have a better chance now too. Then again, the Twins could always fill the closer role externally, and it’ll be back down to one opening. 
This week no players have been removed, but there is one addition. Two scoreless innings, three strikeouts and an extra bullpen spot have at least made relief pitcher Anthony Slama worth watching.

Player Chance Notes
Wilson Ramos (C) Ramos is doing an extraordinary job at the plate this spring going 3-for-8 thus far with four walks in three games. His defense has seemingly been alright too. The big question is how much of a chance the staff is giving Ramos with his competitor Drew Butera having more experience.  
Drew Butera (C) Experience at Triple-A may give Butera the upper hand, but if the Twins are looking for offense in their backup catcher, Butera doesn’t seem to be the guy. Everybody knows he’s much more geared toward defense, and his early .167 average (with three strikeouts in six at-bats) continues to confirm that.
Danny Valencia (3B) It seems likely that Danny Valencia will make his major league debut at some point during the 2010 season. Nonetheless, it continues to be an uphill battle for the 25-year old to crack the Opening Day roster. He’s 3-for-7 thus far with a homerun, but he’ll need to really stick out in the next three weeks to grab a spot.
Alexi Casilla (IF) Alexi Casilla is just 2-for-10 thus far in four games, but equally poor plate production by his competitor is keeping Casilla in the battle. With no more options it’s either make the team or move to a new organization, so Casilla may currently have the upper hand.
Matt Tolbert (IF) While Casilla is batting just .200 after four games, Matt Tolbert has yet to collect a hit in eight at-bats. It’ll be interesting to see how the Twins handle the situation.
Jacque Jones (OF) Jacque Jones’ chances of making the team seem to be decent, especially with the poor production from both Alexi Casilla and Matt Tolbert. He hasn’t played in the majors since 2008 however, so he still has a lot of impressing to do to make his return to Minneapolis a reality.   

Francisco Liriano (SP) In his first outing of the spring, Liriano pitched two scoreless innings and struck out three hitters. It’ll take more than two innings to convince the organization and fans that the winter reports are accurate, but it seems like the final spot in the rotation may be his to lose.  
Brian Duensing (SP) Duensing struggled in his first trip to the mound, but his chances to make the bullpen may have gone up anyways. If the Twins go with an in-house candidate to take Nathan’s spot, there are now two spots open in the bullpen, and only one lefty is currently a lock. 
Glen Perkins (SP) Glen Perkins’ first spring outing didn’t go quite as planned, and his second was only decent. Out of options, Perkins could eventually be traded if he can’t earn a spot in the rotation or bullpen. He very well could be pitching to show off for other teams. 
Pat Neshek (RP) Two solid outings to begin camp, combined with the Joe Nathan injury, have heightened Neshek’s chances of making the team out of camp. Coming off Tommy John Surgery, Neshek could still begin in extended spring training, but there is another bullpen spot seemingly available if his good performances continue through March. 
Mike Maroth (RP) So far this spring, Mike Maroth has had one less-than-stellar outing, and one scoreless outing. His chance to make the team is very slim, and the veteran lefty is almost certainly headed for Triple-A Rochester where good performances could make him an option if injuries arise. 
Slama (RP)
With closer Joe Nathan most likely out for the season, another bullpen spot is now open. With a solid spring, in which Slama would need to blow the coaching staff away, the young righty may have an opportunity to crack a spot in the bullpen.

Making the Team: Week 1

It’s always an interesting discussion as the roster begins to come together each year. With the first games of the spring comes the start of many competitions for positions and roster spots. This year the competitions are more minor, and the roster spots currently up for grabs include a fifth starting pitcher, a final relief pitcher, a backup catcher, and a final bench player. 

The battles are seemingly even in week one, but as games begin, players will begin to establish their opportunities to be with the big league club when they begin the season in Los Angeles, and open Target Field one week later.
Who do you think might jump into the mix? Who will take over the different battles? 

Player Chance Notes
Wilson Ramos (C) With backup catcher Jose Morales expected to miss at least the first part of April, Ramos has suddenly earned a chance to crack the Opening Day roster. His hitting is superior to his competition, but only time will tell if that’s enough for Gardy to take him north with the club.
Drew Butera (C) Butera will also earn a chance to crack the Opening Day roster, and while Ramos is all about offense, Butera is all about defense. A great glove and Triple-A experience could help Butera take the job.
Danny Valencia (3B) While Valencia is viewed by many as the future at third base, he isn’t young by any means. Valencia is 25-years old, and hasn’t yet been called to The Bigs. It’s a long shot that he’ll snatch the job in the next month, but this is his time to show off his skills for a chance in the near future. 
Alexi Casilla (IF) Casilla has no more options remaining, and if he doesn’t make the club out of spring training, he’ll almost certainly be with another organization. His option status may actually help him, but he’ll still need to be productive in the next month to secure a roster spot.
Matt Tolbert (IF) Matt Tolbert can play all around the infield, and if he can play centerfield, it’ll make him even more valuable. With one option remaining, the Twins could eventually opt to send him to Triple-A and go with Casilla if spring production is similar or neither blow the team away.
Jacque Jones (OF) When the Twins first brought back Jacque Jones, it seemed to simply be a kind gesture to their former starting outfielder. Jones has an uphill battle to climb, but if he can play extraordinary defense, hit well, and have Tolbert and Casilla falter in their outfield attempts, he has an outside chance to rejoin the organization in Minneapolis.  

Francisco Liriano (SP) If Francisco Liriano produces anywhere near the way he did this winter, he’ll likely take the final spot in the rotation easily. It likely won’t be easy with at least two other competitors, but with his contract structured for appearances in the bullpen too, he’s likely to make the team in some capacity. 
Brian Duensing (SP) Brian Duensing will have a difficult time knocking Liriano out of the rotation battle if ‘The Franchise’ pitches the way he did in Venezuelan ball, but he seems to also have a shot at the bullpen if he can’t get into the starting five. 
Glen Perkins (SP) The general consensus amongst many is that Glen Perkins will be traded. While that may be the case, if he performs well this spring and the offerings aren’t to the team’s liking, Perkins could be kept around as a left-handed option out of the ‘pen.
Pat Neshek (RP) Everybody hopes that Pat Neshek will return to his pre-injury form and put the team’s bullpen over the top. With one bullpen spot open and the extra starters in the mix for the spot as well, it’s possible that Neshek, who hasn’t pitched in a game in 14 months, could pitch for a week or so in extended spring training before joining the team at Target Field. 
Mike Maroth (RP) Mike Maroth doesn’t seem to have much of a chance to make the big league roster. Instead, a good spring performance could give him a job at Triple-A Rochester and give him a shot down the line in the event that injuries occur.