Twins tell Jones he won't make roster
With Tolbert sent to Minors, Casilla lands final bench role
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Twins' Opening Day roster picture has started to get much clearer after another round of cuts were made on Saturday afternoon.The Twins made four official cuts, optioning infielder Matt Tolbert to Triple-A Rochester and reassigning left-hander Mike Maroth, catcher Danny Lehmann and outfielder Ben Revere to Minor League camp. Manager Ron Gardenhire also said the team has informed outfielder Jacque Jones and pitchers Kyle Waldrop and Anthony Slama that they won't be making the club, but they'll travel with the team to Minnesota for next weekend's two exhibition games against the Cardinals at Target Field. "So the roster's getting real close," Gardenhire said after announcing the moves. With Tolbert cut and Jones being told he's not going to make the club, Minnesota's final bench spot will go to utility infielder Alexi Casilla. Casilla is out of options, and Gardenhire has said numerous times this spring that it would play a factor in their decision-making if no one ran away with the job. Casilla has batted .158 (6-for-38) this spring, while his main competition for the final spot, Tolbert, batted .194 (6-for-31). Gardenhire said it wasn't easy telling Tolbert for the second consecutive spring that he wasn't going to start the year with the club. "He hasn't played great in Spring Training, but that doesn't mean he's not a great player," Gardenhire said. "He's a really good player. He just had a little bit of a rough spring here, but I still think he's a big league baseball player and will be for a long time. Just right now, he's not going to start out that way." Having been on the bubble for a roster spot in each of the previous two springs, Tolbert said he kind of knew what to expect coming into this Spring Training. And he understood the club's decision. "I got an opportunity and I didn't have a great spring," Tolbert said. "That's pretty much it. Now I'm headed to Rochester and hopefully I'll do well there. If a spot opens up sometime and I'm doing good down there, maybe I'll get another chance."
2010 Spring Training - Minnesota Twins
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Tolbert and Casilla had appeared to be in a battle for that final spot since Gardenhire wanted another utility infielder, but Jones made the decision a little tougher with his play during Spring Training. Jones is batting .344 (11-for-32) this spring with a .400 on-base percentage.When the club signed Jones to a Minor League deal in February, he was told of the roster situation and that it was unlikely he'd break camp with the team. But the club wanted to give Jones, 34, another opportunity to show he can still play, and as far as Gardenhire's concerned, Jones' play this spring proved that's the case. "Jacque's had a great spring," Gardenhire said. "I just don't have a roster spot for him right now." After Jones plays in the two exhibition games in Minnesota, he'll head to Rochester and start the season there. He's proven, though, that the club can call upon him if there is a need for another outfielder. "It's been fun watching him play this spring," Gardenhire said. "He's done pretty doggone good, and he becomes a very, very serviceable player in this organization, a guy that can be useful this year." Gardenhire was also impressed by what he saw from Revere this spring. The decision to send down the 21-year-old top prospect was so that he could begin to get consistent at-bats. Revere is expected to begin the 2010 season in the outfield at Double-A New Britain, but Gardenhire hinted he wouldn't be surprised if Revere could have an impact at the Major League level this season. "Another 400-500 at-bats in the Minor Leagues for the young man is going to be fine. Or 250 at-bats in the big leagues this year, I don't know," Gardenhire said. "I like the heck out of him. I like the way he plays, I like the way he goes about his business. I think he's one of the guys in the Minor Leagues right now that has a chance this summer to maybe help us. I like the way he gets after it." The Twins now have 35 players remaining in camp, although that number dwindles to 30, including the three players who have been told they won't make the team and two injured players (Jose Morales and Joe Nathan). As for the decisions the Twins have left to make, they are as follows: Last bullpen spot: Six of seven bullpen spots are filled, with Matt Guerrier, Jon Rauch, Jesse Crain, Jose Mijares, Clay Condrey all considered locks, along with the odd man out in the race for the fifth starter's spot between left-handers Francisco Liriano and Brian Duensing. That leaves Pat Neshek, Glen Perkins and recently signed Ron Mahay vying for that final spot. There is also the possibility that the Twins could acquire an additional reliever to fill the closer role. Backup catcher: With Morales not expected to be ready for at least a few weeks as he recovers from wrist surgery, the race for the backup catcher spot is between Drew Butera and Wilson Ramos. Butera played last year at Rochester and is the more experienced of the two players, but Ramos is one of the club's top prospects and his talent has intrigued Gardenhire this spring. Gardenhire said that he's given his opinion, but is waiting "for the major decision" from the front office on who will get the spot. Third base: Both Brendan Harris and Nick Punto are on the club, but Gardenhire has not yet declared a starting third baseman for Opening Day or how he plans to use the two players at the hot corner. Closer: This is a decision that likely won't be decided until the very end of spring. The Twins have been exploring the trade market for possible closers as well as looking at their internal options. But for now, it's a waiting game to see which way they'll go.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.