On Tuesday, Aaron Hicks officially began his rehab stint with the Rochester Red Wings. These stints normally last just a few days, and with Hicks ready to get back into the outfield his return to the Twins could return before the end of this weekend's four-game set against the Royals. And when Hicks gets back, he'll take away center field from Clete Thomas.
Thomas, for his part, hasn't been exceptional. His .262/.338/.377 triple slash means he's been the most successful center fielder the Twins have had so far this season, but defensively he's not rating well. Granted we're dealing with small sample sizes, but it's not as though Thomas is an unknown entity.
Which brings me to my point: will the Twins find a way to keep Thomas on the roster when Hicks returns? Darin Mastroianni could be back in early July, but there hasn't been a timeline made public. Wilkin Ramirez has had another set back in that he doesn't always feel as good as the Twins would like him to. Besides, considering how much (or little) playing time these players recieve, it's not as though swapping one of them out for either of the other two is going to make a big impact.
The determining factor could be whether or not the Twins think they need to keep a backup center fielder on the 25-man roster. Gardy is already running with a three-man bench, so it's not like they would consider adding a pitcher in lieu of another position player. And if the Twins feel it necessary to keep Thomas, then who goes?
Jamey Carroll has played in three games since last Friday, but has accumulated just three at-bats. Before that he didn't even see the field for a week. He could be a DFA candidate. Oswaldo Arcia won't be going anywhere, probably ever again. And the front office certainly won't trade Josh Willingham or Justin Morneau right now just to keep a spot for Clete Thomas. There really isn't a clear-cut position player to be swapped out.
Even looking through the bullpen, there isn't an obvious choice. Glen Perkins and Jared Burton certainly aren't leaving. Caleb Thielbar has made just ten appearances in the last month but has been almost untouchable. Anthony Swarzak is always going to be Gardy's long man, at least for as long as he isn't terrible. Ryan Pressly and Casey Fien are having good years, Brian Duensing is used regularly. Josh Roenicke is the only guy left, and while he only gets one or two outs per appearance he's (largely) gotten the job done.
My guess is that the Twins drop Thomas, use Eduardo Escobar in an emergency, and then hope that Mastroianni is ready to get back on the field as early as possible in July. But if they DO feel it's necessary to keep Thomas, then it means the Twins will have an interesting decision on their hands.
We're only talking the 25th man here, so more than anything this is probably a question of philosophy. Do the Twins need a backup center fielder on the roster?