NOTEBOOK: Bullpen Cuts Bring Twins Roster into Focus; Reds Claim Vargas; Red Wings Announce Extended Netting

(photo credit: Brian Curski, Cumulus Media)

The Minnesota Twins announced their fourth wave of cuts on Thursday morning, and they probably could be classified as mild surprises. Right-handed relievers Alan Busenitz and Tyler Duffey, a duo that combined for over 100 innings last year, have been sent to Triple-A Rochester as the Opening Day pitching staff is starting to round into shape.

Those weren’t the only cuts on Thursday, either.

Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press lays out quite well what the current status of the pitching staff is:

Now on Wednesday, we projected the Twins to open with 13 pitchers. That is, of course, with the potential for Miguel Sano to open the year on a suspension. If that isn’t the case, the Twins would almost certainly open with 12 pitchers. It’s still possible the Twins could have 12 pitchers with Sano suspended, but Thursday’s moves seem to suggest the team is rather confident Sano will be with the team on Opening Day.

READ: The first Zone Coverage 25-man roster prediction for Opening Day

They’ll get a 40-man exemption for Jorge Polanco, but it’s not entirely clear if/how the Twins will use it. Busenitz and Duffey weren’t the only moves made on Thursday by the Twins, as Jake Cave was optioned to Triple-A Rochester, while Brock Stassi was reassigned to minor-league camp and Chris Heisey was granted his release.

Berardino had a good layout of the following moves and their meanings:

  • Duffey and Busenitz were both upbeat about their demotions, as both realize it’s a matter of when, not if, they’ll be called upon. Duffey will work in long relief at Rochester.
  • The pitching moves mean it’s likely down to Gabriel Moya and Tyler Kinley for the final spot in the bullpen.
  • The Twins will go with 12 pitchers and 13 position players, but one of those will not be Erick Aybar, who was made aware he will not make the Opening Day roster. According to Berardino, Aybar had not decided if he’d opt out of his deal on Friday as of Thursday afternoon.
  • Aybar not making the team seems to suggest the Twins think Sano won’t be suspended for his off-field incident with a photographer at Ridgedale Mall.
  • Aybar not making the team also suggests the team is not only comfortable with just Ehire Adrianza on the bench, but might also feel the need for an extra outfielder with Eddie Rosario battling triceps issues this spring.
  • In addition to a likely bench of Mitch Garver and Adrianza, Grossman will have a spot and the last will likely come down to Granite or Ryan Lamarre, who’d need to be added to the 40-man roster.
  • Catchers Bobby Wilson and Willians Astudillo were also told they would not make the Opening Day roster, sewing up what was already mostly a formality that Garver would open the season as the backup catcher. He may end up on the short side of a platoon after crushing lefties (.290/.408/.530 across all levels) last season.

Twins public relations director Dustin Morse tweeted out that the Cincinnati Reds had claimed Kennys Vargas off waivers on Thursday.

Vargas is a strange fit for a team that has no designated hitter and Joey Votto at the position, but as a bench thumper for a rebuilding team, maybe he’ll be able to find some at-bats.

He’ll most likely be used as a pinch-hitter for pitchers late in games with the occasional spot start at first base, but it’s certainly not an ideal landing spot for the 27-year-old Puerto Rican, who is a career .252/.311/.437 hitter across four years and 236 big-league games — all with the Twins.

Vargas hit .281/.378/.375 in 12 games this spring with the Twins.

The Twins have also decided on Jake Odorizzi for Opening Day starter, according to Berardino. The Twins will open the year with Odorizzi, Kyle Gibson and Jose Berrios against the Baltimore Orioles before having Lance Lynn start the series opener against the Pirates.

This makes some sense, as Odorizzi clearly has familiarity with the AL East and the Orioles from his Rays days, while Lynn has faced the Pirates 23 times in his career — more than any other team.

It also lines up Berrios to start against the Cleveland Indians in his native Puerto Rico in April.

The Rochester Red Wings recently announced a 10-year lease for Frontier Field, and on Thursday, they announced plans for extended netting at the park starting in 2018.

“With the recommendation of MLB in mind, the Red Wings will install additional netting to protect those seats behind each dugout,” Red Wings general manager Dan Mason said via a team release. “Fan safety remains a priority with the Wings and the new netting will meet all recommendations from the Commissioner’s Office. We worked with our partners at Monroe County to develop the best possible solution to MLB’s request. The new netting will be similar to our current backstop which provides much better visibility than what we had prior to 2016. We are working with Monroe County to hopefully have the new netting installed prior to our third homestand which begins on Thursday, May 3.”

According to the team release, the netting will be roughly 15 feet high and 90 feet long, and will cover each dugout as well as be at the front of each dugout closest to the playing field. The material will have knotless intersections like the current netting used at Frontier Field. The original netting went up prior to 2016.

Here’s a look at a rendering of what the new netting will look like, courtesy of Red Wings PR:

(image credit: Red Wings PR)


  • Both Trevor Plouffe (Rangers) and Craig Breslow (Blue Jays) were told they would not make the Opening Day rosters of their respective teams this week.
  • Max Kepler was named among Keith Law’s possible 2018 breakouts on ESPN on Thursday. Fangraphs ranked the Twins as having the No. 14 right field situation in MLB on Thursday, as well. According to them, the Twins have the No. 2 second base situation behind Jose Altuve and the Houston Astros, as well.
  • Berardino mentioned that Aybar could surface with the Baltimore Orioles if he departs, as they’ve been looking for a utility infielder all spring. That would seal the fate of former Twins prospect Engelb Vielma, who is in camp fighting for playing time behind Jonathan Schoop, Manny Machado and Tim Beckham.
  • Thursday marked the 25th anniversary of the boating incident at Little Lake Nellie near Winter Haven, Fla. that killed Cleveland Indians pitchers Tim Crews and Steve Olin, and badly injured Bob Ojeda. Ojeda was able to return later that year and pitch 43 innings in the big leagues.

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(photo credit: Brian Curski, Cumulus Media)

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