BRADENTON, Fla. -- Left-hander Matt Maloney made another strong case to make the Twins' roster with an impressive outing in Thursday's 11-6 win over the Pirates at McKechnie Field.
In his first Grapefruit League start, Maloney allowed one run on four hits and a walk over three innings. He now has a 0.63 spring ERA, with 15 strikeouts and three walks in 14 1/3 innings.
"I feel confident about [breaking camp], and that would be awesome," Maloney said. "The guys on the team are great, and the organization has been great. It's been a really great change for me, and I'm happy with it."
Maloney, 28, is adjusting to a new role as a reliever, as he mostly served as a starter throughout his Minor League career before making a few appearances in long relief with the Reds last season.
So far he's made the transition look easy, and he proved he can also pitch multiple innings, as evidenced by Thursday's spot start.
"I really enjoy it," said Maloney, who is out of Minor League options. "It's different coming to the ballpark every day and being able to pitch, for the most part. As a starter you can't do that, so you're into the games a little more."
Maloney -- along with right-handers Anthony Swarzak and Liam Hendriks -- is one of a few pitchers being stretched out in case right-handers Scott Baker and Jason Marquis aren't ready to start the season.
Baker is dealing with tendinitis in his right elbow, and Marquis has been away for a little more than a week tending to his 7-year-old daughter, who was seriously injured in a bicycle accident in New York.
"I think they just want to cover all their bases and make sure [that] if we need to, we can go on some more extended outings," Maloney said. "But it's kind of like the role I had last year, so I'm ready for it. I know I can go out there and throw a couple of innings when they need me to or even face one hitter. I'll take my innings any way I can get them."
General manager Terry Ryan said that the club will carry 12 pitchers to open the season even if Baker and Marquis are out.
Minnesota could also opt to have only four starters on the roster, as the club has an off-day on April 10, which means a fifth starter wouldn't be needed until April 15.
But manager Ron Gardenhire said it's too early to say what will happen with Baker and Marquis.
"We're still working it," Gardenhire said. "I mean, there's so much uncertainty with Marquis gone, and Baker -- we have to see where he's at. So we're just starting and stretching out as many guys as we possibly can so we have options."
Baker is slated to start in a Minor League game on Saturday, as it gives the Twins the ability to place him on the disabled list retroactive to his last start.
Baker last started on Monday, which means he could be placed on the DL retroactive to Tuesday. If that were to happen, Baker would be eligible to return on April 11.
"We did take a step here to make sure that we're flexible enough, so he's going to pitch in a Minor League game," Ryan said. "If all goes well, then we can make the next step. If it doesn't go so well, then we've got decisions to make."
Marquis, meanwhile, could be placed on the bereavement list to open the season if he's not ready to pitch. In that scenario he would be out for a minimum of three days or a maximum of seven.
Marquis, who hasn't pitched since March 19, has been doing so in simulated games against high school players at home on Long Island to keep up his pitch count.
"He's working," Ryan said, "but we all know it's different. You gotta get down here and see some competition."
So for now, all the Twins are saying is that they'll have 12 pitchers on the roster. They won't say who would be the frontrunner for a spot start if Baker and Marquis aren't ready to open the season.
"We've got a couple, three or four guys on this staff right now that certainly can pitch multiple innings," Ryan said. "So if [Gardenhire] wants to go with four starters, because of the off-day, he can do that. If he wants to stay with five, we probably could do that."