• Building a Bench

    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.

    Could Jim Thome return to the Minnesota Twins?

    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?
    This article was originally published in blog: Building a Bench started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 43 Comments
    1. twinsnorth49's Avatar
      twinsnorth49 -
      150 PA's, sprinkled in every 3 or 4 games over half a season, is extended major league competition? Leave Benson in Rochester (assuming he's not the starting CF out of ST) and if he's playing well, bring him up after Morneau is traded and Parmelee moves to 1st base so he can play full time in RF.

      Having Thome as a bench bat shouldn't be seen as blocking anyone......except Butera.
    1. josecordoba's Avatar
      josecordoba -
      1. What's the probability of Herrmann beating out Butera? Hermann has good catching ability and offers the ability to play in the Corner OF. This says nothing about Herrmann having potential to not be the worst hitter in Baseball.

      2. I would guess Mastro or Benson for the 4th Outfielder.

      3. I guess I don't the angle with singing Thome. A 42 Year Old DH on a 65 Win Team??? He'd probably project to be fairly decent in his role. I guess I just don't see any long term value other then leadership.
    1. Danchat's Avatar
      Danchat -
      I'd take Wilkin Ramirez as the 4th OF and Chris Colabello as my sleepers. The Twins don't keep backup infielders! (see last year) Butera is going to be on the bench. Maybe someone like Florimon as the utility guy.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      A rebuilding team does not need a part time playing 42 year old with one tool and that fading. I'd rather see them give a bench spot to someone who could be part of the future.
    1. Rick Blaine's Avatar
      Rick Blaine -
      Activating Tony Oliva makes more sense. Tony can hit left handers.
    1. Jim H's Avatar
      Jim H -
      I guess I don't see how Thome really helps a team anymore. He can't play the field at all. He can't run at all. If doesn't get regular AB's at DH he can't pinch hit. If he gets regular AB's at DH he will be taking them from a better hitter. On top of that the Twins probably need a RH pinch hitter more than a left handed one.

      One other thing, CMath, I don't see how Clement has the most upside. None of them have a lot, but Clement really doesn't have much value now that he doesn't catch anymore.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Well, he has elite power, which has been sapped by his recurring knee injuries. The theory is, once he has a healthy back leg, he'll start showing the power again.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmathewson View Post
      Well, he has elite power, which has been sapped by his recurring knee injuries. The theory is, once he has a healthy back leg, he'll start showing the power again.
      well... he has had elite power. And it is not only the knees, it is the back. And, let me tell you, at 42 kinda hard to get all those systems go again. More likely than not, his body will be further deteriorating.

      But still.... Thome would be the lipstick in a 90+ loss pig of a team.
      (which is the main reason not to get him)
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by Rick Blaine View Post
      Activating Tony Oliva makes more sense. Tony can hit left handers.
      Burn.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      At this point, there are a few corpses I'd take back on our bench if it meant the end of the third-catcher roster spot. So yeah, I'll take Thome.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      On Thome, I don't think he has anything left. Even in 2010, he would have had limited value if Morneau had stayed healthy. There's a reason he's bounced around since. At this point, his deficiencies outweigh his benefits.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      On Benson, he's probably the best player to take the spot previously used by a third catcher, but he needs to play everyday. So we go to Boggs, or Ramirez, or Clement, or Colabello; all of whom would be preferable to Thome. Herrman is another option, but, like Benson, he needs to play everyday and be ready in case of injury.
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      Quote Originally Posted by mlhouse View Post
      Seriously? Jim Thome? How does Thome help your team rebuild? Every at bat and every inning for the 2013 season needs to be focused on rebuilding the team, not scratching out meaningless wins today. This should have been the focus for 2012 too, which we virtually wasted.

      Instead of Thome getting major league plate appearances, give them to Joe Benson. Benson is 25 years old this month. If he can't hit major league pitching now, he never will be able to. Keep him on the roster as the 4th or 5th OF, give him at least 150 plate appearances in the first 81 games and see what he can do over an extended course of real major league competition.

      If Benson fails, he fails, and we find a replacement just as Jim Eisenreich failed initially for the Twins. We found out that he could not handle the pressure in his home state and then found a replacement, Kirby Puckett. The lesson is that if the Twins would have sent Eisenreich back down to the minors in 1982 for more seasoning he would have still been standing in Puckett's way in 1984.

      But if Benson plays well, then there is something to build on going forward. It is win-win all the way.
      Count me in support of Benson.

      I looked at his splits in AA from two years ago. He is better against lefties. Why not start him against all lefties in RF? Sit one of the left handed hitters from among Parmelee, Morneau, Mauer and Doumit (hits better left handed over career). Two benefits result. You have a good hitter in the bench to pinch hit. You have improved the defense in RF. While Benson is not starting, he serves as a defensive replacement, pinch runner, pinch hitter against lefties on the bench. If Morneau is traded midseason, he will be more ready to take on a larger role. If it is clear he is not capable, Arcia is next in line.

      As for he other three spots, I don't care which of Escobar, Florimon or Dozier starts in AAA. One of the two that stay won't hit and the third will get the chance. There is no reason to keep 4 weak hitting middle infielders on the roster. Ideally Escobar's best entry role is a utility player. The Twins can select between Florimon or Dozier and start Carroll at he other spot.
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmathewson View Post
      On Benson, he's probably the best player to take the spot previously used by a third catcher, but he needs to play everyday. So we go to Boggs, or Ramirez, or Clement, or Colabello; all of whom would be preferable to Thome. Herrman is another option, but, like Benson, he needs to play everyday and be ready in case of injury.
      I like to see Herrmann and Benson both on the bench. It doesn't matter that Herrmann bats left handed. Butera would never be used as a pinch hitter. Herrmann could be used to pinch hit for a middle infielder against right handed pitching.
    1. jmlease1's Avatar
      jmlease1 -
      Quote Originally Posted by SweetOne69 View Post
      If the argument was 13 pitchers I would agree with you, but since most teams carry 12 pitchers it kind of blows your argument out of the water.
      Not really. A stupid idea is a stupid idea no matter how many teams do it. an 11 man pitching staff gives the team a 5-man rotation, a closer, 2 primary set-up men, 2 middle relievers, and a long man. That should be enough for a well-stocked bullpen. Throw another guy into the mix and some of them probably aren't going to get enough work, unless, again the rotation is an utter disaster.

      Having a 5-man bench allows the Twins to carry the 3rd catcher we know they will anyways, carroll as the utility inf, a 4th OF, and LH & RH pinch hitters (at least one of whom can play in the field). Whether they have the right candidates for the jobs is another question.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by jmlease1 View Post
      Not really. A stupid idea is a stupid idea no matter how many teams do it. an 11 man pitching staff gives the team a 5-man rotation, a closer, 2 primary set-up men, 2 middle relievers, and a long man. That should be enough for a well-stocked bullpen. Throw another guy into the mix and some of them probably aren't going to get enough work, unless, again the rotation is an utter disaster.

      Having a 5-man bench allows the Twins to carry the 3rd catcher we know they will anyways, carroll as the utility inf, a 4th OF, and LH & RH pinch hitters (at least one of whom can play in the field). Whether they have the right candidates for the jobs is another question.
      This makes terrific sense if the Twins had a SP staff chock-full of 200+IP Iron Men.

      Unfortunately, the Twins have left themselves desperately short of "chock"- not only they are not full of those types, they have only one guy (Pelfrey) who has actually accomplished this feat, and we all know that he will begin the season as a big TJ question mark. Correia and Worley have a history of only being 5-6 inning guys, at best. Gibson is on restricted innings (and possibly a restricted pitch count?), Diamond is coming back from off-season surgery and is due for some sophomore regression. We all know that Hendriks and the rest are wild cards. The Twins also have 15 home games in April, including 9 of the first 15, increasing the chance for a make-up game backlog down the line. With the joined medical issues of the top 4 SPs even starting out the season in the rotation (Pelfrey, Worley, Diamond, Gibson) and experiential/talent question-marks of the other potential starters and depth men, what are the chances that they all make it through the season healthy and innings-eaters to avoid wearing out the Pen? Not good odds.

      Bottom line, the Twins in 2013 will more likely make a temporary roster move or two to 13 pitchers, as the staff collectively becomes taxed, way before Gardy would ever feel comfortable dropping to 11.
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post

      Bottom line, the Twins in 2013 will more likely make a temporary roster move or two to 13 pitchers, as the staff collectively becomes taxed, way before Gardy would ever feel comfortable dropping to 11.
      Yup. I'd bet a lot of money against the Twins spending any portion of the 2013 season with an 11 man pitching staff.
    1. snepp's Avatar
      snepp -
      Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post
      Yup. I'd bet a lot of money against the Twins spending any portion of the 2013 season with an 11 man pitching staff.
      The thought of an 11-man staff would probably give Gardy nightmares.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by snepp View Post
      The thought of an 11-man staff would probably give Gardy nightmares.
      The thought of his rotation is the cause of that. The size of the relief crew is just a corollary.
    1. snepp's Avatar
      snepp -
      Quote Originally Posted by ashburyjohn View Post
      The thought of his rotation is the cause of that. The size of the relief crew is just a corollary.
      I think they carry a 12-man staff regardless of rotation quality.
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