Benson, Manship demoted in latest roster cuts
Florimon, Rivera reassigned to Minor League camp
SARASOTA, Fla. -- The Twins took another step toward finalizing their Opening Day roster, making another round of roster cuts Tuesday morning to reduce the number of players in camp to 36.
Outfielder Joe Benson and right-hander Jeff Manship were optioned to Triple-A Rochester, while infielder Pedro Florimon and catcher Rene Rivera were reassigned to Minor League camp.
"We sent some pretty good players down today," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "You know, Benson, Florimon those are pretty nice looking players. Rivera's a solid guy for a catching rotation, depth and the whole package. You never like coming to the ballpark and doing those things. You have to do them. You know you have to get down [to 25], and we've got some people who can play a little bit that can help us, too."
None of Tuesday's roster moves came as a complete surprise, although Manship was in the running for a spot in the bullpen and Florimon had a chance to stick as a utility infielder after Tsuyoshi Nishioka was optioned to Triple-A last week.
But Manship struggled in a recent outing against the Yankees and ended up with a 5.19 ERA, while Florimon hit just .148 with one extra-base hit.
But the Twins remain impressed by Florimon's defense, as he's expected to be the starting second baseman or shortstop for Double-A New Britain to start the season, according to Twins general manager Terry Ryan.
"There's no doubt that the kid has a lot of talent," Ryan said of Florimon, who was acquired via waivers from the Orioles in December. "He's got very gifted arm, he can run, he can switch-hit, versatile, now it's just a matter of that bat catching up to the rest of his game, I think we're impressed with him. He's got good makeup, good work ethic."
Manship, meanwhile, remains a viable bullpen option moving forward, but the Twins wanted him to get more innings in the Minors after being limited by a shoulder injury most of last season. He broke camp with the Twins last year, but pitched only 3 1/3 innings in the Majors before tossing just 31 in the Minors.
"His arm has rebounded and now it's about stamina, keep building arm strength, get back after the surgery, all that stuff he had after the injury," Gardenhire said. "He'll be fine. He knows how to pitch. He's one of those guys who can spin the ball any time and throw any of his pitches at any time. It's just about building arm strength and the whole package, and then he'll be back up here. He can get people out."
Benson is the top prospect of the bunch, as he's rated as the club's No. 5 overall prospect according to MLB.com.
Benson showed flashes of his potential this spring, hitting .262 with two homers and a double, and also made a spectacular running grab in center field against the Red Sox at JetBlue Park on March 16.
But he also struck out 13 times in 42 at-bats, and the Twins are hoping he can cut down on his strikeouts at Triple-A. It will also mark Benson's first action at Rochester, as he made the jump from Double-A to the Majors last year as a September callup.
"The guy's got probably as much talent and skills as we've got," Ryan said. "He can run, he's got power, he can throw, he can play left, center and right, he can steal a bag, all that stuff. Now it's just a matter of fine-tuning. I would say strike-zone discipline would be the major area, because if you'll crack his numbers, we need more contact out of him."
With the roster moves, the Twins still need to trim the roster by 11 players before Opening Day against the Orioles on April 6.
The Twins still have a few key decisions to make, and health could play a factor in their roster construction.
If the Twins decide to use Justin Morneau as their regular designated hitter to limit the likelihood of suffering a concussion-related setback, the club would be less likely to carry three catchers. In that scenario, Ryan Doumit would be the backup catcher and there would be no need to worry about him serving as DH with Joe Mauer behind the plate.
That would give Chris Parmelee a much better chance to make the club as a first baseman and right fielder, while Drew Butera would start the season at Triple-A Rochester.
The Twins could also decide to place right-hander Scott Baker on the disabled list due to elbow tendinitis, or even place outfielder Trevor Plouffe on the DL with his strained right hamstring. A disabled list move could lead to another bullpen arm on the roster to start the season.
But Gardenhire wouldn't give any hints as to which way the club is leaning at this point.
"We're just making a team," Gardenhire said. "It's not problems. It's just baseball. We're just trying to put together a team. It's not problems. When you have too many good players, that's a good thing. I don't know how many times I've said that. If you have problems getting to 25, and you have to make some tough decisions, that's a good thing. So we've got some good decisions to come down the street here. Some guys have played very well. We'll see how it all shakes out."