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Twins Spring Training Position Battles

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It's a bit of a different game this year.

In the last few seasons when we talked about position battles in spring training and who was going to be the 25th man, it was because the Twins had a lot of depth in the minor leagues that could flesh out a roster.  This year there are battles because the Twins have a lot of depth on their major league roster, and this is something we already know--there won't be enough roster space to take north all of the names we recognize.

The biggest battles and the players involved, after the jump!

Third Base - Nick Punto, Brendan Harris, Matt Tolbert, Daniel Valencia

When we talked to Rob Antony, he seemed to have a lot of love for Harris.  We know Gardy has love for Punto.  One of these two guys, barring an injury or a big spring by Valencia, will be the starter while the other takes up a bench spot.  It's also very possible that Gardenhire puts both Harris and Punto into a plattoon situation, with Brendan getting starts against southpaws and Punto getting the nod against right-handers.  Either way, these two will be the positions primary players (at least from opening day).

The Final Bench Spot - Matt Tolbert, Alexi Casilla, Jacque Jones

Spring training is less about results than it is process, mental attitude and what you show.  Particularly if the Twins decide to hand the starting third base job to Harris, with Punto on the bench as a super-sub it's plausible that a great spring from Jones could land him on the four-man bench.

But it's not likely.  The reality is that of the guys that have a realistic shot to go north, Casilla is the only one who really doesn't have a choice.  Jones isn't on the 40-man roster (and that, more than anything else, makes his coming north a problem) and Tolbert has an option left.  Out of options, if the Twins don't take him along to Minnesota, then it means they've made another decision on Casilla.

5th Rotation Spot - Francisco Liriano, Glen Perkins, Brian Duensing, Anthony Swarzak

Following his performance over the winter and with the most upside in the bunch, Liriano has to be the favorite for this slot.  In descending order, from Perkins through Swarzak, these three will have to take advantage of a terrible Liriano spring if they're going to win this job.

The Final Bullpen Spot - Liriano, Perkins, Duensing, Swarzak, Pat Neshek

Out of the seven available spots, six are all but guaranteed:  Joe Nathan, Matt Guerrier, Jon Rauch, Jesse Crain, Jose Mijares, Clay Condrey.  The five guys above (well, four considering one will be in the rotation) have their work cut out for them.

With Neshek shaking off a little rust and likely starting the season in Rochester, the field is narrowed down to three options.  Depending on the Perkins situation it could even be narrowed down to two, but he as well as Duensing and Swarzak all have options remaining.  This is where the guy who shows he's ready simply wins the job--there aren't complications of options or incumbants as there will be with the position player battles.

We'll take closer looks at these battles as we move through spring training.