Brent Rooker is out, Kyle Garlick is in. Calen Thielbar is in, and Brandon Waddell is out. For now.
Manager Rocco Baldelli told reporters Monday the Twins left some major league players off the 26-player for Thursday’s season opener at Milwaukee, making some tough final calls during the Twins’ 5-3 exhibition victory over the Pirates in Bradenton, Fla.
Left-hander Thielbar, a Minnesota native who reset his career as a member of the St. Paul Saints, got the last spot in the bullpen over Waddell, who for now will have to settle for a spot on the five-man taxi squad. So will Rooker, who hit well in his first major-league call-up last spring (6 for 19 with a home run) but was edged out by Garlick, whom the Twins claimed off waivers from Atlanta on Feb. 11.
Garlick, 29, hit .297 with five homers and 13 RBIs in 16 spring training games. Rooker, 26, hit .265 with a home run and three RBIs in 16 games, but it didn’t sound Monday as if hitting is the issue.
“Brent Rooker has been a tremendous offensive player since the day he signed a professional contract,” Baldelli said. “We think he’s very capable at the moment of filling multiple roles on our Major League team. That’s not the question. I think Rook knows that there are certainly things in his game that he still needs to focus on and lock in on and spend time on so he becomes a more well-rounded player.
“But I do think that as it stands, I don’t think that he’s very far away from helping us.”
Garlick and Jake Cave appear ready to share time in left field with Byron Buxton in center and Max Kepler in right. But infielder Luis Arreaz, a left-handed hitter with a career .331 batting average, will play in the outfield, as well, Baldelli said.
Also making the roster is Willians Astudillo, a catcher/infielder whose ability to make good contact and his go-for-broke style in the batter’s box and on the base paths has endeared him to Twins fans.
“I think most of us feel like a supporting actor in a movie, and he’s the lead,” Baldelli said. But don’t, he added, underestimate how good Astudillo really is. In 95 major-league games he has hit a combined .294 while playing catcher and every infield position but shortstop. He only has seven walks in 299 at-bats, but he also has only 13 strikeouts.
Last year, Astudillo played in only 16 games but was on the postseason roster.
“He’s a very valuable member of our group, and I never want to fail to acknowledge that,” Baldelli said. “All the smiles and laughs and games where he’s playing well, you wrap it all up, and it is easy to lose the fact that he is that kind of player.”
Mitch Garver played Monday for the first time since taking a foul tip off his left index finger in a game against Boston last Thursday. He went 0 for 4 with a strikeout on Monday. More important, his finger survived nearly a full game behind the plate.
“I think he came out of everything OK, both his hand and wherever else that ball hit him (against) Boston,” Baldelli said. “It was a successful day for Garv; he’ll be ready to go.”
Alternate site training
Until the minor leagues get started, the Twins will carry a five-player taxi squad with them on their season-opening road trip through Milwaukee and Detroit, Baldelli said. That group comprises Rooker, Wadell, reliever Luke Farrell, infielder JT Riddle and catcher Tomás Telis.
When the Twins return for their April 8 home opener against Seattle at Target Field, the taxi-squad players — if there are no personnel moves — will be sent to CHS Field for alternate-site training with the Saints, who are starting their first season as the Twins’ Triple-A affiliate.
The Saints start May 4 at Omaha, and their home opener is May 11 against Iowa, but AST training officially begins Saturday.
Here is the 26-man roster the Twins will have for Opening Day on Wednesday at Milwaukee:
Starting rotation: José Berríos, J.A. Happ, Kenta Maeda, Michael Pineda, Matt Shoemaker.
Bullpen: Jorge Alcala, Alex Colomé, Randy Dobnak, Tyler Duffey, Hansel Robles, Taylor Rogers, Cody Stashak, Caleb Thielbar.
Catchers: Willians Astudillo, Mitch Garver, Ryan Jeffers
Infielders: Luis Arraez, Josh Donaldson, Jorge Polanco, Miguel Sanó, Andrelton Simmons
Outfielders: Byron Buxton, Jake Cave, Kyle Garlick, Max Kepler
DH: Nelson Cruz
Taxi squad: Luke Farrell (RHP), JT Riddle (IF), Brent Rooker (OF), Tomás Telis (C), Brandon Waddell (LHP)