While center field is still in flux, it is fairly clear at this point how the Twins envision their starting lineup coming together at the start of the season. Chris Parmelee will be taking over for Ben Revere in right, and Ron Gardenhire has made no secret of the fact that he'd like to see Brian Dozier and Pedro Florimon take the reigns in the middle infield. All other positions will be occupied by players reprising their roles from 2012.
There is less certainty when it comes to the composition of the bench. When I projected the Opening Day roster in my spring training preview
, I guessed that the Twins would follow the typical Gardy formula: short bench (resulting from a seven-man bullpen) populated by a third catcher and a bunch of defensive specialists who can pinch-run.
The names I listed were Drew Butera, Jamey Carroll, Eduardo Escobar and Darin Mastroianni. It's still plenty plausible that the Twins could enter the season with that very group comprising their bench but a few recent comments and developments have added some interesting twists to this storyline.
First, there's Jim Thome. His name has been buzzing around Twins Territory recently
, and while there initially appeared to be little steam behind the rumors, it sounds more and more like Gardenhire would really like for it to happen
And why wouldn't he? The problem with the Twins' current bench candidates is that none of them are threats with the bat, which leaves the manager in a tough position in late-game situations when guys like Florimon, Dozier or Butera are due up.
Thome is extremely limited at this point in his career but he'll always be a weapon as a pinch-hitter and his presence would be a treat for teammates and fans. The challenge is creating space on the bench, but that could potentially be accomplished by removing Butera from the equation.
Would the Twins do such a thing? It has seemed unlikely, given that they re-upped him for $700,000 and Gardy has always enjoyed the comfort of having a third backstop on the roster, but recent reports that Escobar -- who was an emergency third catcher with the White Sox last year -- is getting in some work behind the plate
suggest that the Twins may be trying to mitigate that need.
If the Twins want to pass on Thome and look elsewhere for a bit of pop on the bench, there are several other intriguing candidates in camp, including Chris Collabello -- one of the feel good stories of this spring
. Joe Benson could be a sleeper as well.
With few starting jobs up in the air on offense, these open bench spots will provide some of the most compelling drama for fans craving position battles here in March. Personally, I hope the Twins make an effort to get creative and stray away from their norm. Why not?