The Free Press, Mankato, MN

May 12, 2014

Thoma column: Mid May is moving time for marginal regulars


The Mankato Free Press

---- — The middle of May. About a fifth of a way through the season.

This is frequently the point at which the Twins are willing to discard certain offseason or spring training decisions — the veteran starter on a low-priced contract (think Sidney Ponson or Ramon Ortiz), the recycled infielder (Tony Batista).

The bench guys are always more vulnerable, of course; the Twins didn’t wait until May last year to dump Tyler Robertson. I’m talking about rotation and lineup choices made on the margins, often as much to buy time for a prospect in the minors as for what the winner of the job offered in likely production.

We’re seeing some of this movement already. Mike Pelfrey has been shunted to the disabled list; even if Sam Deduno fails to hold the rotation job, by the time that happens, Alex Meyer or Trevor May may be deemed ready for a shot.

The Twins can’t be eager to eat the remains of Pelfrey’s two-year contract, but they can’t be eager to run him back into the rotation either.

Then there’s shortstop. Pedro Florimon took the concept of good-field, no-hit too far and got bounced back to Triple A last week. (The average pitcher was hitting .129 entering Saturday; Florimon was hitting .108 when demoted). I don’t expect to see him back.

Danny Santana is up and will be the regular shortstop as long as he’s around. The Twins see him as their shortstop of the future; I am considerably less optimistic about him, but at least they aren’t sticking with a no-chance option.

I personally think Eduardo Escobar is a better choice than Santana, both for 2014 and beyond, but if I’m right Santana will play his way out of the lineup by mid summer.

Then there’s Jason Kubel, the most prominent of the three nostalgia boys to serve time on the active roster. Kubel’s hot start, combined with injuries to Josh Willingham and Oswaldo Arcia, got him locked into left field and the middle of the batting order.

But it’s starting to get away from Kubel. He entered Sunday without an extra-base hit since April 25, and he had struck out in half his at-bats this month.

He got the job in spring training as much through Chris Parmelee’s failures as by what he had shown. Now Parmelee’s back, having ravaged International League pitching again. At some point soon, Willingham and Arcia are likely to return.

Nostalgia and default got Kubel this far in 2014. And this may be as far as he goes.

Edward Thoma (344-6377; ethoma@mankatofreepress.com) maintains his Baseball Outsider blog at fpbaseballoutsider.blogspot.com. Follow him on Twitter @bboutsider.