Twins Opening Day roster predictions

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Before the start of Spring Training I made my roster predictions, and it turns out I was way off on quite a few picks.

Of course, there was no way of knowing that certain players would get hurt — Scott Baker and Joel Zumaya come to mind — or that Jason Marquis wouldn’t be ready to start the year because of a family issue.

But I was quite certain that the Twins would carry three catchers, as it was widely assumed that Ryan Doumit would serve as the club’s regular DH. But with Justin Morneau being shifted to DH, and the emergence of Chris Parmelee, the Twins decided to option Drew Butera to Triple-A Rochester today.

I also thought Tsuyoshi Nishioka would make the roster, but he looked shaky again this spring, and he was optioned to Triple-A on March 19.

So now that we’re a little less than a week from Opening Day, I should do a better job on these predictions. So here’s what I have:

ROTATION

Locks: Carl Pavano, Francisco Liriano (L), Liam Hendriks, Nick Blackburn
Spots open: None
Situation: Twins manager Ron Gardenhire officially announced the order of the club’s rotation today after the Twins’ 15-3 win over the Pirates. With Baker and Marquis out, Hendriks will start the third game of the season with Blackburn starting the home opener against the Angels on April 9. And with an off-day on April 10, Carl Pavano will start on regular rest on April 11, meaning the Twins don’t need a fifth starter until April 15.

BULLPEN

Locks: Matt Capps (CL), Glen Perkins (L), Brian Duensing (L), Matt Maloney (L), Anthony Swarzak, Jared Burton
Spots open: Two
Prediction: Alex Burnett, Jeff Gray
Other candidates: Casey Fien
Situation: The Twins plan on having eight relievers to start the year with Swarzak being counted on as a long reliever. Maloney and Burton secured their spots in the bullpen with excellent springs. Jeff Gray appears to be close to wrapping up a spot because he’s out of Minor League options. Gray hasn’t been great — he has a 4.35 ERA and more walks (five) than strikeouts (three) — but still seems close to a lock. The battle for the last spot will likely come down to Burnett vs. Fien, and Burnett simply has the advantage because he’s on the 40-man roster. But Burnett has struggled this spring with a 7.00 ERA in nine innings, while Fien has a 1.93 ERA in 9 1/3 innings. The trick is finding a 40-man spot for Fien, and I’m not sure the Twins have an extra one.

CATCHER

Locks: Joe Mauer, Ryan Doumit
Spots open: None
Situation: The Twins appeared likely to start the year with three catchers, but changed their stance with Morneau’s shift to DH.

INFIELD

Locks: Justin Morneau, Alexi Casilla, Jamey Carroll, Danny Valencia, Luke Hughes, Chris Parmelee
Spots open: One
Candidates: Sean Burroughs, Brian Dozier
Prediction: Burroughs
Situation: Gardenhire essentially confirmed that Parmelee will make the roster, which means he’s the likely Opening Day starter at first base with Morneau serving as designated hitter. Gardenhire, though, wouldn’t say that Burroughs is on the roster quite yet, even though it appears very likely with the decision to option Butera to Triple-A. The Twins like Burroughs on the field and in the clubhouse, and could serve as a late-inning pinch-hitter.

OUTFIELD

Locks: Josh Willingham, Denard Span, Ben Revere, Trevor Plouffe
Spots open: None
Situation: No surprises here other than the decision to start Willingham in left field, which means Revere will serve as a fourth outfielder. Right field will be manned by a combo of Plouffe, Doumit, Revere and Parmelee. Span sticks in center field with Revere as his backup.

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