Good to see everyone after a week away. In the meantime pitchers, catchers, and everyone else has reported, and the Twins played their first spring training game on Saturday. It's not even real baseball in a purist sense, but it sure beats the alternative.
And while situations can be difficult to discern this early in camp, I think they in fact get a bit more difficult as camp goes on. There will be tough 40-man roster decisions, as well as figuring out who exactly will make this bullpen.
I think we'll see a vastly improved Twins team, but I can't exactly put a finger on why. The starting rotation we see today probably isn't better than the one on paper which was presented to us prior to 2012. Then again, what exactly did Francisco Liriano, Carl Pavano, and Scott Baker provide the Twins last season that Vance Worley, Scott Diamond, and whomever you choose as the third-best starter couldn't possibly match this season?
Here are some of the news notes I'm looking at right now, as I see them:
* I think there's a good chance Rich Harden and Mike Pelfrey start the season on the disabled list. By my figuring, the Twins could be creative and not need a fifth starter until mid-April -- maybe the 10th at the earliest but with a spot starter in there more like the Angels home series Apr. 15-17 -- so putting Pelfrey on the DL to allow for a little more roster flexibility early in the season might be a preferred route if the bullpen competition stacks up as I think it may. Similarly, based on some of the pieces I've read, it sounds like Harden is a bit further away than most people believe. I wonder if he won't be ready for live game action until late-April or early-May. This, of course, is all from up in my brain and not from actually talking to people in the know.
* It seems to me that the Twins desperately want Aaron Hicks to win the job in center, and I think so far, so good. This won't be a case where a guy like Denard Span has a good spring and is sent back, because I think Darin Mastroianni is a built-in fourth outfielder candidate. In fact, any other fourth outfielder candidate would probably require the Twins to add someone to the 40-man roster, as I don't believe Joe Benson is a candidate for that spot until next year (when he's officially out of options). He has too much lost time to make up for in the minors, even with a good spring.
* I'm not so secretly rooting for Chris Colabello to make the team as a bench thumper. An Indy league star, Colabello has a pretty good back story. He also showed pretty good power with a near .200 ISO in New Britain last year. Position flexibility will work against him, as it doesn't seem he can play anything other than first base. Projection systems Steamer and Oliver both project Colabello for a .306 wOBA; by no means great shakes, but with decent power (.244/.303/.403 for Steamer/.241/.299/.409 for Oliver). This line mirrors almost exactly what Trevor Plouffe did in 2011, for a point of reference. In other words, probably not enough to hang around.
* I can't quite figure out what in the world is going to happen with the bullpen. Tim Wood, Josh Roenicke, and Casey Fien are all on the 40-man and will merit legitimate shots, and that's even before considering guys like Caleb Thielbar, Tyler Robertson, and Rule-5 pickup Ryan Pressly. Then figure in the 'givens' Glen Perkins, Brian Duensing, Jared Burton, and Alex Burnett, and you probably have at least 11 guys competing for what could be as many as seven or maybe eight roles -- assuming a starter on the DL to start the season -- and it's going to get crowded. It's pretty crazy to think it's this crowded without even having the injured Anthony Swarzak, or newly-signed Rafael Perez for that matter, to think about.
* I feel semi-confident the Twins will carry three* catchers, with Ryan Doumit being one of them. However, if the Twins don't, it means they're ultra-committed to the idea of Joe Mauer catching as many games as possible, perhaps as many as he has since 2008, when he caught an unthinkable 139. I think Chris Herrmann is an extremely dark horse here, as a possible C-OF combination that could allow the Twins some excellent defensive versatility.
* I could see Eduardo Escobar making the team, but I don't really see the point. Plouffe, Pedro Florimon, Jamey Carroll, and Brian Dozier would provide the team with enough defensive versatility to render Escobar superfluous. I'm still not a believer that the Twins would target Jim Thome as a bench bat, though. I feel like the sun has set there.
* There's growing thought that Santana might be the shortstop of the future in Minneapolis, Phil Mackey writes.