5 big Twins questions with two weeks until Opening Day
Minnesota opens season March 30 in Kansas City
The Minnesota Twins have made their first round of cuts and have started to narrow down the number of players in camp, but there’s still plenty left to be solidified before the team heads north.
With two weeks left before the Twins open the season in Kansas City on March 30, here’s a look at five questions that will need to be answered before then.
Who will the Opening Day starter be?
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli has not yet announced an Opening Day starter, though he has good options.
Kenta Maeda and Joe Ryan drew the Twins’ last two Opening Day starts. Tyler Mahle was the Reds’ Opening Day starter last season. Pablo Lopez is certainly worthy of the nod. But the most likely of the bunch appears to be veteran Sonny Gray, whom the honor likely would have gone to last season had he been ready.
Gray finished last season with a 3.08 earned-run average across 24 starts, but his season was disrupted three times by injuries. This year, he reported to camp ahead in his preparation in an attempt to ward off some of those issues. It appears as if the Twins are lining Gray up to start March 30.
Who’s on first?
Or, put another way: Will Alex Kirilloff be ready for the season?
Earlier: Alex Kirilloff feeling ‘really optimistic’ about progress
Kirilloff underwent his second consecutive season-ending surgery last August. This one was an intensive procedure to shorten his ulna. He’s been taking live batting practice and reported feeling optimistic earlier in camp, but president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said over the weekend that he was slightly behind the Twins’ schedule for him.
If that’s the case, could it mean he starts the season on the injured list? If so, other potential options at first include Donovan Solano, Joey Gallo and Kyle Farmer.
Will everyone else be ready?
Like Kirilloff, Byron Buxton and Jorge Polanco have not appeared yet in a game this spring as they return from respective knee problems. But the pair have been busy on the backfields, taking plenty of at-bats against Twins pitchers. Falvey said feedback has been positive and they’re “targeting Opening Day” for each.
Nick Gordon, who has been out since March 3 with a high ankle sprain, is expected to return to game action this week, and Jose Miranda, who has a sore shoulder, has started a throwing program. Miranda has been hitting but has yet to play a game in the field. Still, it sounds as though the Twins expect both to be ready on Opening Day.
Who will be in the bullpen?
Things will start to get interesting quickly as the Twins continue to make cuts and the bullpen picture starts to take shape.
Start with a base of Jhoan Duran, Jorge Lopez, Griffin Jax, Caleb Thielbar and Emilio Pagan. That leaves three spots open. Jovani Moran, who would be the second lefty along with Thielbar, appears to have a leg up on a spot.
Jorge Alcala has looked good in his return from elbow surgery, and if that continues and the Twins see what they want to see from him, it would seem as if he would have a good shot at a spot.
Baldelli has said that he would like to have a long reliever, but whether the Twins break camp with one will be something to watch. If they don’t take a long reliever, Trevor Megill could potentially nab a spot.
What will the Twins do with Bailey Ober?
It seems unlikely that the Twins will start the season with a six-man rotation, though Bailey Ober sure is doing all that he can to make the Twins’ decision harder.
Ober has thrown six scoreless, hitless innings this spring, and president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said the idea of a six-man rotation is at least something they’ve given more thought to recently than at the beginning of camp.
Right now, it appears most likely that Ober is headed to Triple-A, but could that change in the next couple of weeks?
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