Kubel likely to make Twins’ roster
By Mike Berardino
St. Paul Pioneer Press
FORT MYERS, Fla. — From all indications, Jason Kubel is going to break camp with the Minnesota Twins.
The veteran slugger said Monday morning he had been told of his fate, but wasn’t in a position to speak publicly about it just yet.
“I’ll let them tell you, but I’ve already been informed,” Kubel told the Pioneer Press. “Awful spring, but they’ve already filled me in and I’m sure they’ll tell you in a couple minutes. All I know is I’m going in the right direction, feeling better each day.”
The Twins have a Tuesday deadline to either add Kubel to their 25-man major-league roster or pay him a $100,000 retention bonus so they can send him to Triple-A. They have an open spot on their 40-man roster after 2013 Opening Day starter Vance Worley cleared waivers last week.
After a slow start this spring, the left-handed batting Kubel has worked his on-base percentage up to .333 and is 7 for 33 (.212) with 12 strikeouts and six walks.
“That’s what I want to do going into the season: feel good now instead of two weeks ago,” Kubel said. “When has any spring training stat mattered? It’s a lot harder to get up for these games than real games. It’s a combination of things, but I’m really happy with where I’m at right now and I’m feeling good.”
Kubel, 31, played his second game of the spring in right field on Saturday against the New York Yankees. In light of Josh Willingham’s recent struggles in left field, which manager Ron Gardenhire has noted the past two days, it appears Kubel might get more time in the field in the coming days and beyond.
“I think I’ll be playing quite a bit in the field during the season,” Kubel said. “So I would imagine I’ll play more (in the field) towards the end (of spring). I spent the last few years playing the outfield. It’s kind of what we talked about when I signed over (on Dec. 13).”
Kubel signed a minor-league deal that pays him $2 million in the majors, plus up to another $1 million on performance bonuses based on playing time.
As for the Twins’ decision to option hard-throwing reliever Michael Tonkin, Kubel’s brother-in-law, the veteran said he didn’t try to console his disappointed relative.
“There’s nothing you can say or do, but I know he’ll be back soon and he’ll be here for a long time,” Kubel said. “As far as that goes, I’m not too concerned about that, but it would have been nice to have him make it right now.”
Tonkin, 24, dominated with seven scoreless appearances totaling 8 1/3 innings this spring. He allowed three hits and two walks while striking out five and allowing a .111 spring batting average.
“He was throwing great,” Kubel said. “He’ll keep doing it. He and I talk to (pitching coach Rick Anderson) and (manager Ron Gardenhire) and all them. They love him. It’s just part of it.”
Having seen all the live arms shipped out of camp already this spring, Kubel noted the Rochester Red Wings are looking loaded at this point.
“That Triple-A team has like a full major league (pitching) staff down there,” Kubel said.
Twins cut Guerrier, but could bring reliever back
Veteran reliever Matt Guerrier led the group cut from big-league camp Monday morning as the Twins worked their roster down to 29. The Twins, however, said they are open to re-signing the left-hander to a minor-league deal as he works back from August 2013 elbow surgery.
They granted Guerrier, 35, his unconditional release Monday rather than pay him a $100,000 retention bonus as mandated by the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Agent Joe Bick said he and the Twins are “continuing conversations” as Guerrier considers his options. Guerrier, who signed with the Twins on Jan. 29, didn’t make his Grapefruit League debut until March 11 and posted a 6.75 ERA in four spring outings.
“I think his arm strength is fine,” assistant general manager Rob Antony said. “He needs to refine a little bit on the breaking ball. He’s throwing mostly fastballs down here in game situations. We had some guys ahead of him. We still like him. We still think he could help us during the course of the year, but not out of camp.”
The Twins also optioned relievers Michael Tonkin and Ryan Pressly and catcher-outfielder Chris Herrmann to Triple-A Rochester. Reassigned to minor-league camp were outfielder Wilkin Ramirez, infielders Doug Bernier and Deibinson Romero, right-handed reliever Deolis Guerra and left-handed relievers Aaron Thompson and Matt Hoffman.
Dozier open to contract talks during season
While no contract proposals were exchanged recently between the Twins and Damon Lapa, agent for second baseman Brian Dozier, but the Twins’ scrappy leadoff man remains open to continuing discussions during the season.
“That’s why you have agents; they deal with that kind of stuff,” Dozier said. “For people to say they wouldn’t be open to hearing anything about any kind of extension I think is foolishness. That’s your future.”
Dozier, 26, is coming off a breakout season in 2013, when he hit 18 home runs, most by any second baseman in club history. He will make $540,000 this season.
Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis is among those who have set a deadline of Opening Day to complete talks on a contract extension.
“If you want to remain with a club, which I do with the Twins ... I’d be crazy not to ever listen to anything,” Dozier said.
The eighth-round pick in the 2009 draft has just one year and 100 days of service time and doesn’t figure to be eligible for salary arbitration for another two seasons. However, the Houston Astros reportedly are discussing a five-year extension with third baseman Matt Dominguez, who has similar service time. A Yahoo Sports report pegged those talks at $17 million over five years.
A prospective deal for Dozier would figure to be north of that amount.
“We had some talks or whatever,” Dozier said. “Obviously nothing took place, but it was a bunch of good positive feedback on both ends. It’s very unlikely anything will be coming soon, or during the season or anything. We’ll let another year play out and see where it goes. That was just a thing to see where everybody was.
“I think (the Twins) would be in the near future open to it, and we definitely are.”
Escobar an intriguing option for Twins
Among the five remaining bubble players out of minor league options, Eduardo Escobar, 25, might be the Twins’ most intriguing.
The switch-hitting utility man is hitting .306 in 36 at-bats with 18 total bases. That includes two doubles, a triple and a long home run from the left side on Saturday against the New York Yankees.
When Tampa Bay Rays super-sub Sean Rodriguez and versatile Ben Zobrist were mentioned in a conversation on Sunday, Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony countered with one of his own.
“A lot of people want Eduardo Escobar, too,” Antony said. “(If) he swings the bat like he has this spring, he has the ability to play anywhere around the infield or outfield. Good athlete. And Escobar would be our emergency catcher if we only go with two catchers.”
The Twins acquired Escobar in the trade deadline deal that sent Francisco Liriano to the White Sox in 2012.
Coming off an offseason in which he hit 10 combined homers and won a Gold Glove at shortstop in the Venezuelan Winter League, Escobar has drawn his share of trade inquiries from rival clubs, though a rival front-office official said the Twins are not shopping him.
“I think Escobar is on the team,” the official said.
What that means for Bartlett, 34 and hitting just .088 (3 for 34) this spring, is unclear. However, the Twins did open 2013 with two utility infielders on their roster: Escobar and veteran Jamey Carroll and Escobar.
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