Brian Duensing tossed two scoreless innings against the Pirates this afternoon, but the bigger news came just before he took the mound when Ron Gardenhire replied “absolutely” when asked if Duensing would be in the Opening Day rotation.
After re-signing Carl Pavano the Twins have six starters for five rotation spots and Duensing has the most relief experience of the bunch, so there was some thought that he’d be the odd man out as the Twins try to strengthen their rebuilt bullpen.
Duensing has made 55 of his 77 career appearances as a reliever, posting a 3.18 ERA in 76 innings, but he’s also 12-3 with a 2.93 ERA in 22 starts and Gardenhire is apparently committed to giving him an opportunity to stick in the rotation.
Assuming the Twins don’t trade Francisco Liriano, that means there are three “locks” for the rotation and Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, and Nick Blackburn are competing for the final two spots. Baker bouncing to the bullpen seems unlikely considering he was the team’s Opening Day starter last season and has made 138 career starts with a 4.32 ERA, but his offseason elbow surgery to remove bone chips could complicate things.
A report from the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly suggests that free agent catcher Welington Castillo currently tops the Orioles’ list of potential backstop targets for the 2017 season. With Matt Wieters on the market, the Orioles lack a suitable platoon partner for Caleb Joseph behind the dish, and Connolly adds that the club has been discussing a multi-year deal with Castillo’s representatives since the Winter Meetings.
Castillo batted .264/.322/.423 with the Diamondbacks in 2016, racking up 14 home runs and driving in a career-high 68 RBI in 457 PA. His bat provides much of his upside, and Connolly quoted an anonymous National League scout who believes that the 29-year-old’s defensive profile has fallen short of his potential in recent years.
For better or worse, both the Orioles and Castillo appear far from locking in a deal for 2017. Both the Rays and Braves have expressed interest in the veteran catcher during the past week, while the Orioles are reportedly considering Wieters, Nick Hundley and Chris Iannetta as alternatives behind the plate.
The Phillies reportedly signed veteran outfielder Daniel Nava to a minor league contract, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Nava began the season on a one-year contract with the Angels, during which he slashed .235/.309/.303 through 136 PA in the first half of 2016. He was flipped to the Royals in late August for a player to be named later and saw the remainder of his year go down the drain on an .091 average through 12 PA in Anaheim. After getting the boot from the Angels’ 40-man roster in November, the 33-year-old outfielder elected free agency.
Nava is expected to compete for a bench role on the Phillies’ roster in the spring. As it currently stands, the club’s projected 2017 outfield features Howie Kendrick and Odubel Herrera, with precious little depth behind them. Nava’s bat is underwhelming, but at the very least he offers the Phillies a warm body in left field and a potential platoon partner for one of their younger options, a la Tyler Goeddel or Roman Quinn.