In our many discussions over the winter I had said, at various points, that it would be a long shot for Eddie Rosario to make the opening day roster. I don't even need to look it up; I remember saying it. More than once. My reasoning was sound: he has yet to play above Double-A, and his Double-A numbers were pretty uninspiring in 2014. Hitting .237/.277/.396 as a talented hitter expected to handle advancing levels of competition? Well, it wasn't a good sign.
Rosario's bat was like a hot knife through butter in the Arizona Fall League. He hit .330/.345/.410 in 100 at-bats, finishing as the runner-up to the league's batting title, and his coach was nothing but glowing in his praise of his star player's skills and attitude. Yet I still didn't give him much of a chance to go north with the team at the end of spring training.
Did the Twins see this coming? They didn't aggressively pursue other center field options, opting to stick with Aaron Hicks and Jordan Schafer. The signing of Shane Robinson didn't represent anybody hedging their bets, it was just a classic depth signing.
After a couple of starts in left field and a couple of short backup appearances in center, on Sunday Paul Molitor gave Rosario his first start of the spring in center field. Terry Ryan and Molitor have both praised Rosario's defensive abilities and are clearly comfortable putting him in that position.
Perhaps the most important factor in Rosario's potential to make the opening day roster is Aaron Hicks. Hicks has had a couple of nice moments this spring and is the only outfielder on the roster who A) has Major League experience in center field, and B) has the potential to be an everyday outfielder. Yet there have been a couple of memorable occasions already this month where he's forgotten how many outs there were, or where he's made a base running error. For a player whose biggest criticisms have included game preparation, these lapses in judgement are more than worrisome - they're going to damage his credibility in terms of management putting stock in his commitment.
Statistically, for what it's worth, both players have had a strong couple of weeks. As meaningless as statistics are in spring training, having Hicks and Rosario posting respective OPS marks of .912 and .895 is nice to see. But if it comes down to which of the two players has looked better this spring, the answer has to be Rosario.
Should Hicks not take the role by the horns and own it in the next two and a half weeks, Minnesota's brain trust will be asking themselves some very interesting questions as the calendar rolls into April. And they'll all be about Eddie Rosario.