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Twins spring training: Molitor sees no 'slam dunk' Opening Day starter

FORT MYERS, Fla. — On Day One of his first spring training last spring, Twins manager Paul Molitor revealed Phil Hughes would be his Opening Day starter.

This year, Molitor is taking a more measured approach.

“I don’t mind doing that when it’s a slam dunk, but I’m not sure we’re quite at that point yet,” Molitor said. “We kind of have a general plan in mind, but we’re not at a point where we feel comfortable locking that in. It’s good to have options.”

In addition to Hughes, who has impressed the coaching staff with his conditioning, the Twins also have fellow right-handers Ervin Santana and Kyle Gibson to consider for the honor on April 4 at Baltimore.

Relief pitcher Burdi adds splitter to arsenal

Already blessed with a triple-digit fastball and a low-90s slider, Nick Burdi is set to add another weapon to his arsenal.

The Twins’ fireballing relief prospect threw a handful of split-finger fastballs during Monday’s bullpen session. The right-hander has messed around with the pitch since he was in high school but has never thrown it in a game.

That could change after experiencing good results with the splitter during winter workouts back home in the Chicago suburbs.

“We’ll see what happens,” Burdi said. “I can control it better than my changeup. It’s definitely a harder action. For a hitter, I feel like it’s going to be a little tougher to pick up.”

When thrown properly, Burdi said, his splitter should come in at 82-83 mph. That’s nearly 20 mph slower than his fastball, although he has been concentrating on the two-seam (or sinking) fastball since an impressive turn in the Arizona Fall League.

Burdi, 23, tossed 13 scoreless innings for Scottsdale in the AFL, striking out 17. He is a long shot to make the Twins’ bullpen out of spring training, but the former second-round pick and Louisville star could push for a role by midseason.

“I’m just getting that foundation laid out,” Burdi said, “and be ready to go when the games start up.”

Interpreter on board

One of the first things Byung Ho Park did upon arriving in the Twins’ clubhouse on Monday morning was walk across the room and introduce himself to Ervin Santana.

Trailing Park as he made his way around the room was new interpreter J.D. Kim, a 35-year-old resident of South Korea who has lived in Maryland for several years and spent a year in Los Angeles.

Kim formerly served as the interpreter for the NC Dinos of the Korea Baseball Organization. Park and his representative, Alan Nero, selected Kim with Twins approval. A two-month transitional overlap is customary so Jae Woong Han, Octagon’s client manager, can help train Kim.

The Twins are contractually bound to pay $50,000 toward Kim’s salary each season.

Location, location...

Twins equipment manager Rod McCormick and his staff take great care in deciding where to position lockers in the overstuffed spring clubhouse.

Among the notable placements this spring are a de facto triple locker for Joe Mauer in the corner just outside McCormick’s office. Torii Hunter was in that spot last year.

Briefly

Miguel Sano, making the transition to right field, is likely to see more action than normal this spring so he can get more defensive repetitions, Molitor said. That could mean more bus trips to road games for the 22-year-old slugger. ...LaTroy Hawkins, who pitched for 11 big-league teams after the Twins drafted him in 1991, is in camp as a special instructor. ... The Twins’ overall health is as good as it’s been in years heading into spring camp, Molitor said, relaying a comment from general manager Terry Ryan. Only lefty reliever Mason Melotakis, who has yet to see game action since undergoing Tommy John surgery in September 2014, must be closely monitored. ... Danny Santana said Ryan told him to concentrate on playing the outfield this spring. Santana, who broke in as an outfielder in 2014, saw plenty of action in both center and right field in the Dominican Winter League and played more second base than shortstop.

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