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Notes from the Rob Antony interview

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Jesse shares his post-interview notes and impressions following his visit with Twins Assistant General Manager Rob Antony.

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

I've been asked a number of questions following my conversation with Twins Assistant General Manager Rob Antony last week, so I wanted to take the opportunity to answer a few of those questions - and share a few of my own impressions - in a public forum so that the ideas are readily available.

Rob Antony Q&A - Part I
Rob Antony Q&A - Part II

What was the question you mentioned skipping in the interview?

One of my questions in the Byung Ho Park section was to determine whether the Park overtures were part of Plan A, meaning that the Twins would always be going after him regardless of what else happened prior to the posting process, or whether the club's involvement was a result of something that had come before. When Antony mentioned that Torii Hunter's retirement allowed the front office to get involved in going after Park, that answered the question pretty succinctly.

Why didn't you ask more about Jose Berrios?

There wasn't much I wanted to know about Berrios, to be honest. I felt like it was fairly obvious that he wouldn't be breaking camp with the team but that he'd make his debut at some point in 2016, which is why I asked how close he was to being ready. Even if the team already thinks he's ready and is working off a combination of delaying his service clock and trying to get a read on lesser but more senior pitchers, I thought there was value in Antony's answer about Berrios' readiness:

He’s getting closer. He had a little bit of a tough outing the other day on the minor league side, he just didn’t have very good command of his fastball. But he’s shown indications that he’s getting closer and closer. I’m not sure he’s quite ready, but I also don’t think it’s a reach to say that there’s a good chance he’ll pitch for us in the big leagues this year at some point. When we start needing guys, he’ll be one of the first guys that’s considered if he’s pitching well in the minor leagues like he was last year and pitching like he can. If he doesn’t make the club he’ll be one of the first alternatives, and right now it probably looks unlikely that he would make this club because he’d have to make it as a starter. We wouldn’t put him in the ‘pen.

I focused on three things from that answer. First was that Antony didn't get specific about any one thing that was keeping Berrios in Triple-A; take from that what you like. Second is that Berrios will be "one of the first alternatives," which implies that when the time comes he'll be in contention with - and this is just my feeling - Ricky Nolasco, who could be in long relief, when the club needs another starter. If Berrios is pitching well and Nolasco less so, I have little doubt that the Twins would choose the rookie over the veteran. Finally, and this is good to see, is that the Twins will not be going the Johan Santana route with Berrios and breaking him into the Majors via the bullpen. He's being developed as a starter, and that's exactly how the organization plans on using him.

Why don't the Twins just make up their minds on what they want to do with Alex Meyer?

This might get a post of its own from me at some point this week. My short answer, and this is just my guess, is that the club wants to get Meyer's mechanics in order, and to do that they're not sure whether it's best to limit his exposure as he ramps himself up (via the bullpen) or whether it's best to put him in the rotation so that he can work that throwing motion 80, 90, 100 times in a single outing because those game situations and repetitions and innings will be more beneficial.

When Meyer was optioned on Friday, it was noted that he was a 50/50 chance to start or relieve and that the club wants Meyer to be a part of that decision. I'll say this: if starting doesn't work this time, regardless of the reason, I think that his direction could be changed more permanently into a relief role.

Edit: Mike Berardino just posted that Alex Meyer will indeed begin the year in Rochester's rotation. He'll need to continue to earn that spot, however, going off of Terry Ryan's comments.

Just a few takeaways of my own:

  • We heard Terry Ryan discuss the organization's willingness to splash out on the right bullpen arms on the right deals, and Antony's disclosure that the club was searching for shorter-term options jives with why the team didn't get into a bidding war for guys like Tony Sipp or Antonio Bastardo. It doesn't grant the club a complete pass for not bringing in an established bullpen arm with a track record via trade, but it - at least partially - explains the lack of involvement in free agency.
  • Considering the sudden rotation depth, with veterans Phil Hughes, Ervin Santana, and Ricky Nolasco limiting how many starter spots are available, it's interesting to note the club has learned from those decisions and is avoiding making similar ones in the bullpen. Adding lefty Will Smith from Milwaukee would be one thing, but adding lefty Bastardo and right-hander Tyler Clippard on three-year deals, for example, would undoubtedly make it much more difficult for the Twins to find roster space for Nick Burdi, Alex Meyer, J.T. Chargois, Mason Melotakis, or Jake Reed this year.
  • If the Twins can secure arrangements with international prospects for a fair number, they have no problem with blowing their international signing pool.
  • The Twins have clearly placed a premium on offense over the winter. Run scoring is down in baseball's current climate, and by keeping Trevor Plouffe the organization is making a concerted effort to give themselves as many run-scoring opportunities as possible. We may disagree with how the team has chosen to align its defense, but you can't deny that keeping Plouffe has - at least in the near-term - elongated the middle of the lineup.
  • Rob deferred when I asked him if stacking right-handed power hitters (Dozier, Plouffe, Park, Sano) was by design, because of how power plays to left in Target Field, but keeping Plouffe implies that it was.
  • Rob mentioned that the club won't have any issues exposing certain players to waivers (think: Michael Tonkin, Oswaldo Arcia, Danny Santana) if they don't earn a roster spot, and to a certain extent I believe him. Still, it's hard to see the Twins going north without Arcia or Santana. Maybe there's a late spring trade (Arcia to Philadelphia?), which then makes some space for a guy like Carlos Quentin as the slugger off the bench, but I'll believe it when I see it.
  • Speaking of late spring trades, I think the Twins might be willing to listen to overtures to their rotation depth a bit more this year than they were last year. Maybe that means Nolasco, but I don't think the idea is exclusive to him. And while it may not happen out of the gate, Minnesota is interested in Trevor May as a starting pitcher. If the club can find a spot for one or two of those young arms in the bullpen later in the campaign, I don't think it's out of the question that they think about getting May back into the rotation.
  • I said this on the South Side Podcast this weekend: I have absolutely no idea what the future holds for Joe Mauer. Rob expressed his confidence in Joe, as you expect he would, and I wasn't lying when I said that I hoped there was another batting title or two in his future. But you can't overstate how dangerous brain injuries are, not just in the short term but in the very opaque long term. Maybe Mauer's symptoms will more fully abate this season. But maybe they won't. And if they don't, then I have reservations about his future as a player - not because of his talent or commitment or determination, but simply because of his long-term health as a father and husband. I just hope for the best.