MINNEAPOLIS — As the Minnesota Twins look for answers in the middle infield in 2013, many eyes will be watching some of the team’s young infielders.
But there’s a chance a 39-year-old journeyman could be the answer at one of the two positions.
That veteran would be Jamey Carroll, who enters his second season in a Twins uniform. Minnesota marked his fifth team in his 11-year career. Despite his advanced age, Carroll played 138 games for the Twins in 2012, eight games shy of his career high set in 2011 with the Dodgers.
Now entering his 18th spring training, Carroll believes age is just a number.
“Everybody else talks about it more than I do,” said Carroll, who will turn 39 later this month. “I know how I feel. I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel. I feel like I can still do the things I’ve been able to do.”
Carroll batted .268 with a .343 on-base percentage and 40 RBI in 2012 and committed 12 errors. Of the 138 games Carroll played last season, he spent the majority of his time at second base (66 games). He also saw time at shortstop (37 games) and third base (34 games).
This spring, Carroll will be in the mix with younger teammates Brian Dozier, Pedro Florimon and Eduardo Escobar as the four vie for the two middle infield sports. Carroll insists he doesn’t have a preference on which of the two positions he plays.
“I’ve played everywhere for a long time that wherever they feel is best to have whoever, that’s how I’ll take it,” Carroll said. “I’m not going to go in saying, ‘I need to play here,’ or, ‘I want to play there,’ or, ‘I prefer to do this and that,’ because it doesn’t matter to me in that regard. I feel comfortable wherever they want me for.”
Carroll has spent far more time in his career at second base, but showed last year that Twins manager Ron Gardenhire should have no problem penciling him into either middle infield position. And even as a 38-year-old, Carroll stayed healthy all season.
“There’s no question or guesswork with a guy like Jamey,” said Twins general manager Terry Ryan. “The experience and the credibility, whether it’s third, short or second, he does the job at any of those positions. You know he’s going to give an effort, as he does every time he goes from home to first, an all-out effort, all that good stuff.”
Last season, Carroll was a mentor for Dozier during spring training. Dozier eventually made his big league debut in May but struggled at times and was later sent back to the minors.
Once again, there’s a good chance that Carroll will spend part of his spring helping out the Twins’ younger infielders. He’s at least 12 years older than Dozier, Florimon and Escobar, and none of those three have more than two seasons of major league experience.
“There’s a lot of talent there. I think it’s just getting experience,” Carroll said of the other middle infielders. “It’s going to be some younger guys that are going to have to step up this year and understand and really learn from their mistakes and struggles they had last year, because we’re going to rely on them, especially in the infield.”
When the Twins players report to Fort Myers later this month, Carroll will be the oldest one in camp. In fact, he’ll be twice the age of Minnesota’s top prospect Miguel Sano, who is just 19 years old.
That didn’t stop Carroll last year, and he doesn’t plan on his age holding him back in 2013.
“I walked away from last season feeling great. There’s a lot of pride, because I know in a sense what people think, you’re 38 and this and that and this is the most I’ve ever played,” Carroll said. “But I knew I could do it. To me, it wasn’t where I went home and high-fived myself or anything, because I had confidence that I could do it and I prepared to do it. That’s the kind of mentality I take with me.”