02/18/12 12:55 PM EST
Twins expect all hurlers, backstops on Saturday
Rest of squad is scheduled to report to spring camp on Thursday
By Rhett Bollinger / MLB.com
The rest of the team is scheduled to report on Thursday, with full-squad workouts beginning on Friday, Feb. 24.
"It's an exciting time right now, just to get out on the field and see how we kind of mesh together," Twins catcher Joe Mauer said. "I'm excited for this camp -- probably the most excited I've been coming to camp. I mean, I'm always excited, but just to get back on the field and get after it, and make sure something like 2011 doesn't happen."
The Twins are reporting earlier than normal, as they have an extra three days of practice compared to recent years, with 13 days to get ready for their Grapefruit League opener at Hammond Stadium on March 3 against the Rays at 12:05 p.m. CT.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire made that decision in late August, because he wanted extra time to practice and get ready for the season, given the club's struggles in 2011 -- when it lost 99 games and finished with the worst record in the American League.
"I think we know we have our work cut out," Twins right-hander Scott Baker said. "I think everybody in this clubhouse is prepared to put the work in like we're going to win the division. There's no way other way to do that. It seems like every year, the division gets better or tougher, and this year is no exception."
The Twins are scheduled to have their usual 10 days of workouts, with the final three days being used for review and to go over anything else that needs to be addressed before Grapefruit League play begins.
Of the 41 pitchers and catchers reporting to Fort Myers, 16 are non-roster invitees, including 11 pitchers and five catchers.
Notable non-roster pitchers include right-handers Jason Bulger, Jared Burton and Esmerling Vasquez and left-hander Phil Dumatrait. And among catchers, the list of non-roster invitees is composed of prospects Chris Herrmann, Danny Lehmann and Dan Rohlfing, former Astros catcher J.R. Towles and Rene Rivera, who played in 45 games with the Twins last year.
All together, the Twins invited 66 players to camp, including seven non-roster infielders and three non-roster outfielders. Some non-roster players to keep an eye on are infielders Brian Dozier, Sean Burroughs, Pedro Florimon and Steve Pearce, as well as outfielders Brian Dinkelman and Matt Carson.
Several position players were already working out at the club's Spring Training complex this week in advance of next week's official report date, including infielders Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Chris Parmelee and outfielder Joe Benson. Catchers Mauer and Towles also started working out ahead of the first official workout for pitchers and catchers.
Pitchers such as Glen Perkins, Brian Duensing, Nick Blackburn, Liam Hendriks and Baker also got an early start on their training at the complex.
The talk of camp is expected to be about health, as the Twins utilized the disabled list 27 times last year to lead the Majors -- including key injuries to players such as Mauer, Justin Morneau and Denard Span.
The health of all three players is critical to the club's success this year, and it'll be important to see if they can get through camp without any setbacks.
The starting rotation was also ravaged by injuries in 2011, with all but right-hander Carl Pavano spending time on the DL.
Blackburn (right forearm surgery) and Baker (right elbow strain) are expected to be ready to go in Spring Training, after saying they were healthy during TwinsFest in late January. Left-hander Francisco Liriano, who dealt with shoulder problems last year, pitched in the Dominican Winter League without any problems, with his goal to build the necessary arm strength to bounce back after his struggles in '11.
New addition Jason Marquis is also fully healed from the fractured right fibula that ended his season last August, when he was pitching for the D-backs.
Those five pitchers, if healthy, will make up the starting rotation. But there is still plenty of competition for spots in the bullpen.
Closer Matt Capps, left-handers Perkins and Duensing, and right-hander Joel Zumaya are considered locks to make the club, which would leave three spots up for grabs. Incumbents Anthony Swarzak and Alex Burnett are early favorites to join the bullpen, but there are other intriguing candidates -- including Lester Oliveros, Burton, Bulger and Rule 5 Draft pick Terry Doyle.
"I think we're going to be solid, I really do," Perkins said about the bullpen. "From what it seems we're going to have Duensing out there; he kills lefties. And with Zumaya, it seems like he's healthy and will be able to come in and do the thing with the righties. And I'll come in and fill wherever need be, and Capps will have a little bit of a bounce-back. He's a better pitcher than what he showed last year, and I think everybody knows that. That's four pretty solid guys to start with."
There will also be competition for a number of backup roles, including at catcher between Drew Butera and Towles, and at middle infielder between Nishioka and Luke Hughes. Trevor Plouffe, who like Hughes is out of Minor League options, is expected to make the club as a fourth outfielder, but could be pushed by Benson.
It should all make for a very interesting Spring Training for the Twins, who open the regular season on April 6 against the Orioles in Baltimore.