By La Velle E. Neal III, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) –
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Minnesota Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson shares the same office as manager Ron Gardenhire at the team’s Hammond Stadium spring complex. Behind the manager’s desk is a large white board Anderson uses to track his pitchers’ workload during camp.
Next to each name, he writes the innings and number of pitches thrown on a certain day. That way, he can schedule outings and track their progress during camp.
That list is going to be a long one this year.
“You won’t be able to see the bottom of it from in front of Gardy’s desk because it’s going all the way down to the floor,” Anderson said with a chuckle.
Pitchers and catchers report to spring training Saturday at the Lee County Sports Complex. It’s a big camp, literally. Sixty-six players are expected to report — so many that the Twins have had to throw out a table used for eating and card games and replace it with a kiosk of eight stalls to handle the overflow crowd.
Anderson is looking at a group of 33 pitchers, the most he has had since being named Twins pitching coach before the 2002 season. The Twins are looking for bullpen help and to build depth at Class AAA Rochester following a 63-99 disaster last season.
Anderson is facing a “Multiplicity” moment. How will he be able to see everyone pitch and give them enough innings to show their stuff? Anderson knows he won’t be able to clone himself like Michael Keaton’s character did in the movie.
“We’ll do the best we can this year,” he said. “What’s amazing is that most of the free agents we have coming in here have major league experience.”
The Twins’ rotation should consist of righthanders Carl Pavano, Jason Marquis, Scott Baker and Nick Blackburn and lefthander Francisco Liriano. The bullpen locks should include closer Matt Capps, righthander Anthony Swarzak and lefthanders Glen Perkins and Brian Duensing. Terry Doyle is a Rule 5 pick and figures to be on the roster if he has a decent camp. Joel Zumaya, coming back from a broken elbow in 2010, should make it with a decent camp.
That leaves a bevy of pitchers for the final spot, including newcomers Jason Bulger, Jared Burton, Jeff Gray and Matt Maloney. Competition will be tough for the relievers who have come up through the Twins’ system and are in the hunt, such as Alex Burnett, Carlos Gutierrez, Liam Hendriks, Jeff Manship and Kyle Waldrop.
“You get six-year free agents and people sign here to get an opportunity,” Anderson said, “and you’ve got to let them have chances in spring training. If you give them three innings, that’s not a fair chance.”
So the Twins are making calls around to other teams in Florida to schedule “B” games. Anderson probably will have his established pitchers appear in the “B” games and have pitchers who are battling for spots pitch in the regular games.
The Twins have scheduled a “B” game at Pittsburgh — which has 30 pitchers in camp — on March 10. Anderson has been on the line with Red Sox pitching coach Bob McClure about scheduling extra games. Boston has 34 pitchers in camp. All three teams need games and innings to evaluate their arms.
The Twins also have split-squad games scheduled for March 4, 16 and 30, which will come in handy with so many arms in camp. Conversely, this is the wrong spring to have any rainouts, with so many pitchers needing innings.
“We have a lot of question marks,” Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said. “But we do have numbers.”
Now it’s time to whittle those 33 down to the best 12 pitchers possible.
“One of those guys,” Ryan said, “is going to surprise this team and make it.”