Twins descend on Florida, with more to come
As sign of spring, pitchers and catchers prepare to begin workouts
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- All 37 of the Twins' pitchers and catchers reported to camp Sunday, with the first official workout slated for Monday morning at the Lee County Sports Complex.
The rest of the squad was scheduled to report Friday, with full-squad workouts beginning Saturday. But several Twins position players had already been working out at the club's Spring Training complex, including Brian Dozier, Trevor Plouffe, Chris Parmelee, Alex Presley, Pedro Florimon, Darin Mastroianni and Aaron Hicks. Top prospects Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano also arrived at camp early.
But the biggest additions to the club this offseason came on the pitching side, as the club signed both Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes to multiyear deals while also retaining right-hander Mike Pelfrey on a two-year pact. The Twins also signed veteran catcher Kurt Suzuki to a one-year deal to replace Joe Mauer, who is moving to first base because of the season-ending concussion he sustained in August.
So the buzz at Twins camp is expected to be about the revamped rotation, which is set to include the three free-agent additions and veteran Kevin Correia, who was the club's most dependable starter last year.
"The pitching staff didn't do what they wanted here last year, so bringing in myself, Ricky and bring back Mike shows they're making an effort to get this thing right again," Hughes said. "It's our job to come in and not try to do anything special. If we can just be ourselves, I think we can be pretty good."
The fifth spot in the rotation, however, is still up for grabs, and the top three candidates for that spot are Samuel Deduno, Scott Diamond and Vance Worley. All three pitchers are out of Minor League options, so it will be an interesting battle to monitor this spring.
They will also be pushed by pitching prospects like Kyle Gibson, Alex Meyer and Trevor May. Gibson is in big league camp for the second time in his career, though he struggled last year in his first taste of the Majors with a 6.53 ERA in 10 starts.
Meyer, ranked as the No. 28 overall prospect by MLB.com, and May were both added last offseason via trades; Meyer was acquired from the Nationals for Denard Span, and May was acquired from the Phillies in the Ben Revere trade. Both pitchers are expected to start the year at Triple-A Rochester but will get invaluable experience in big league camp this year. Left-hander Logan Darnell was also invited to big league camp for the first time.
"I don't want to come in thinking I don't have a chance, but I'm sure I don't have much room for error," Meyer said. "But it's just fun to be up here with these guys. The longer I'm up here, the better."
Meyer is headliner among the eight non-roster pitchers invited to camp, joining right-handers Matt Guerrier, Yohan Pino, Lester Oliveros and Deolis Guerra and left-handers Sean Gilmartin, Matt Hoffman and Aaron Thompson.
Guerrier, who pitched with the Twins from 2004-10, is trying to come back from elbow surgery, as he had his right flexor muscle repaired in August. He is one of three notable former Twins invited to camp as a non-roster invitee, joining infielder Jason Bartlett and outfielder/DH Jason Kubel.
Gilmartin is another new addition, as he was traded from the Braves for catcher Ryan Doumit in mid-December. He is joined by fellow left-handers Kris Johnson and Brooks Raley, who are both on the roster and were acquired this offseason. The Twins traded for Johnson from the Pirates for reliever Duke Welker in November, and they claimed Raley off waivers from the Cubs on Wednesday.
The bullpen was perhaps the club's strongest suit last year, and familiar faces Glen Perkins, Jared Burton, Casey Fien, Brian Duensing, Ryan Pressly and Caleb Thielbar all return. Hard-throwing right-hander Michael Tonkin is also firmly in the mix and is considered one of the club's top relief prospects along with left-hander Edgar Ibarra.
Among the eight catchers invited to camp, Suzuki has the most experience and is expected to be the primary catcher this season. Josmil Pinto, Chris Herrmann and Eric Fryer, who all saw time with the Twins last year, will compete to be his backup. Pinto is considered the club's catcher of the future but still needs to refine his defensive skills.
"I'm really excited," Suzuki said. "It's a new organization and a new journey. From playing against this organization, it's a winning organization, and I'm excited to be a part of it. The last few years haven't gone the right way, but playing against Minnesota throughout my career, I remember every September they were in contention for the AL Central."
The Twins also invited four non-roster catchers to camp with Kyle Knudson, Matt Koch, Dan Rohlfing and Stuart Turner adding depth this spring. Turner is considered the biggest prospect of the bunch, as he was drafted by the club in the third round of last year's First-Year Player Draft.
It should all make for a very interesting Spring Training for the Twins, who open the regular season against the White Sox in Chicago on March 31.