FLORIDA — Only 11 days remain until the Minnesota Twins are scheduled to open the season at home against Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers.
That’s an unenviable task but perhaps even more unenviable is the task facing Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire of trying to put together a respectable pitching staff by April 1.
From all appearances here in the Sunshine State, new Twin Vance Worley (6-9. 4:20 ERA with Philly in 2012) will be the Opening Day starter. And Worley has been just so-so in his last two outings.
Forget about Worley, though, and try to figure out how the rest of the staff will look.
Two castoffs from the National League, Kevin Corriea (12-11, 4.21 with Pittsburgh in 2012), and Mike Pelfrey (only 19 innings with the Mets in 2012 because of an injury), are scheduled to be in the rotation.
Corriea won 46 games his last four years, Pelfrey 45 in the last four years before the injury.
Is Liam Hendricks (1-8, 5.59 with the Twins in 2012)in the rotation? Or will it be Samuel Deduno (6-5, 4.44 in 2012 with the Twins) who befuddled the U.S. team in the WBC?
Scott Diamond, 12-9, 3.54 last year with the Twins, will be on the disabled list to open the season and so will Anthony Swarzak.
Does that mean that Eden Prairie’s Cole De Vries (5-5, 4.11 in 2012) is the fifth starter, a pitcher who was often the focal point of criticism by some media people in the Twin Cities in 2012?
Things are just too unsettled this close to the opener, although outings between now and then may change things dramatically.
The Twins were 16th in baseball in runs last year and 11th in batting average. If they can get a decent performance out of their center fielder, they’ll score some runs again this season IF players who return can get close to matching last year’s totals.
You have Joe Mauer (10 HR, 85 RBIs, .319 avg.), Ryan Doumit (18-75-.275), Justin Morneau (19-77-.267), Josh Willingham (35-110-.260) and Trevor Plouffe (24-55-.235). Brian Dozier (only 84 games) added 6 homers and Chris Parmelee (only 64 games) added 5.
But who can take the mound and make the runs stand up that the Twins will be scoring?
That’s got to be Gardenhire’s biggest worry,
Diamond, who had a bone chip removed in December (why so late?) was counted on to be one of the top pitchers this year but he is slated to miss a couple weeks.
Is Pedro Hernandez, the lefty acquired from the White Sox in the Francisco Liriano trade, a sleeper to make the team? Probably not but he has an ERA of 0.00 in 10 innings.
Gardenhire likes to say that things will sort themselves out so I’d guess by this time next week he’ll have his staff figured out. But he’ll likely not be real comfortable with the results.
Hicks the likely starter
Aaron Hicks, after a great start, was only 2 for 15 in the last week. And Justin Morneau also dropped off, going only 1 for 12.
Neither got a hit Sunday in a game I watched at Sarasota against the Orioles and both were hitless Monday against the Marlins.
But Hicks is playing every day and seems destined to start in center field, although Darin Mastroianni is hitting .391 and has stolen 6 bases in 7 tries.
Hicks easily stole second Sunday against the Orioles as the Twins dropped their fifth game in the last seven.
Pedro Florimon had an error on a easy play and then made a great diving catch two batters later, after starting a double play. He seems to mess up some easy plays but it looks as though he’d have to play his way out of being the starting shortstop.
The Minnesota Twins South (Baltimore Orioles) had J.J. Hardy starting at short and Lew Ford in left. Ford drove in three runs.
And in a split-squad game against the Phillies the same day, Alexi Casilla led off for the Orioles and played short, while Danny Valencia had his second straight two-hit game at third.
Ben Revere stole his fifth base of the spring for Philly.
About 30 ex-Twins show up on spring training rosters
There are 29 ex-Twins on 40-man rosters in the Major Leagues and Matt Capps (Cleveland) and Ford in Baltimore are others with a chance of making the cut.
Ex-Twins starting in the National League are Michael Cuddyer in right at Colorado, Denard Span in center at Washington, Jason Kubel in left at Arizona, Carlos Gomez in center at Milwaukee, and Ben Revere in center at Philadelphia.
That’s three center fielders.
Were it not for an ankle injury, Delmon Young would probably have been in right field next to Revere for Philly.
Wilson Ramos and Kurt Suzuki will split time at catcher in Washington.
Here’s a lineup of ex-Twins.
C – Ramos, A. J. Pierzynski, Rangers.
1B – Garrett Jones, Pirates.
2B – Nick Punto, Dodgers.
SS – J.J. Hardy, Orioles.
3B – Valencia, Orioles.
OF – Kubel, Cuddyer, Gomez, Revere, Span. Torii Hunter, Tigers, and Young.
DH – Ortiz, Boston (on the DL).
Utility – Casilla, Orioles.
SP – Scott Baker, Cubs; Matt Garza, Cubs; Phillip Humber, Astros; Johan Santana, Mets; Jason Marquis, Padres; and R.A. Dickey, Blue Jays (NL Cy Young winner).
RP – Craig Breslow, Red Sox; Jesse Crain, White Sox; Matt Guerrier, Dodgers; Jon Rauch, Marlins; Grant Balfour, A’s; Pat Neshek, A’s; Jose Mijares, Giants; and Joe Nathan, Rangers.