FORT MYERS, Fla. — The first round of cuts came Thursday for the Minnesota Twins, as they optioned six players and reassigned three others to the minor league camp.
Pitchers Deolis Guerra, Lester Oliveros, Scott Diamond and Tyler Robertson and outfielder Darin Mastroianni were all optioned to Triple-A Rochester. Outfielder Oswaldo Arcia was optioned to High-A Fort Myers.
Three players were reassigned to the Twins’ minor league camp — pitcher Aaron Thompson, infielder Steve Pearce and catcher Danny Rams. Pearce was slowed in camp this week by a strained calf. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said Wednesday that Pearce would be out 7-10 days.
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Oliveros and Diamond both saw time with the Twins last season. After Minnesota acquired Oliveros in a trade with Detroit, he pitched 10 games in relief. The 23-year-old right-hander posted a 4.05 ERA in 13 1/3 innings, striking out nine batters while walking seven.
“He just has to refine his pitches. We like a lot about him,” Twins general manager Terry Ryan said. “We think he’s made up right. We think he has a good arm. He certainly has a fastball that’s intriguing. He can spin the ball enough. But he’s a young kid. He was pushed up here last year because of necessity, and now it’s time for him to go down and see if he can dominate Triple-A.”
Diamond, 25, made his big league debut in 2011 and started seven games for the Twins late in the season, going 1-5 with a 5.08 ERA. Minnesota wants to use him as a starter, but the Twins’ five-man rotation is pretty much set. As a result, Diamond was optioned to Rochester to be able to pitch more innings this spring as a starter.
“Some of them are behind quite a few people. It’s time now to start allowing us to stretch out some of the regulars,” Ryan said. “Certainly those pitchers are up into the four and five inning mark. There just aren’t enough innings now, and there aren’t enough at-bats.”
Arcia got just nine at-bats in Grapefruit League action, going 1-for-9 with three strikeouts. Mastroianni hit .154 (2-for-13) with a double and an RBI in nine games.
With the moves made Thursday, the Twins now have 57 players in camp. That includes 27 pitchers, eight catchers, 13 infielder and nine outfielders. The Twins break camp on April 4 and play the Baltimore Orioles on Opening Day on April 6.
The Twins will have several chances in the next few days to evaluate players, as Minnesota has split-squad games Friday against the Orioles and Red Sox, and a “B” game on Sunday.
“Today’s a day that certainly kind of starts on the evaluation period,” Ryan said. “Not that the previous outings and the previous games didn’t mean much. They did. But most of the guys that went over, it was for a reason.”
Twins not concerned about Baker’s elbow: Twins right-hander Scott Baker had his next start pushed back due to tenderness in his elbow, but Ryan said it’s nothing to be concerned about at the moment.
Baker will throw a bullpen session on Friday, and the team will reevaluate him then and decide when to slide him back into the rotation.
Ryan said Baker experiences a similar tenderness in his right elbow nearly every year during spring training.
“It is amazing that this is kind of his history, so we backed off just a tad,” Ryan said. “This is a standard thing that happens to him every spring and has for probably the last three or four years straight.”
Baker had trouble warming up during the Twins’ “B” game against the Pirates in Bradenton on Saturday. After he was originally scheduled to start, Baker instead didn’t pitch until the third inning.
“We got him out of his routine,” Ryan said. “It was a little bit of an awkward day, a B game. There aren’t any excuses here. … The fact is, he’s got a tender elbow. He sat for about three days here since then and he seems to be a lot better now, so we’re going to ramp him back up.”
Doyle, Twins hit hard in 10-run first inning: Before the Twins even stepped into the batters box in Thursday’s first inning against Pittsburgh, they were down a field goal and a touchdown.
Starter Terry Doyle and reliever Anthony Swarzak combined to give up 10 runs in the first inning as the Pirates sent 15 batters to the plate during their 17-6 victory. Doyle lasted 2/3 of an inning, allowed eight earned runs on seven hits. He walked one batter, hit another and struck out one.
“He couldn’t calm down enough to get the ball where he wanted to,” Gardenhire said. “Everything was up. He just couldn’t get through it. … Just over-amped. A little too excited. Got his work in. Plenty of it. Forty-plus pitches.”
In his first start of the spring, Doyle pitched two scoreless innings while only allowing one walk. On Saturday in Bradenton, Doyle was charged with two earned runs on seven hits in 2 2/3 innings.
Thursday’s start was his by far his roughest of the spring. The first three batters he faced all reached base. After striking out former Twin Garrett Jones, he continued to give up hit after hit to the Pirates.
The outing raised his spring ERA to 16.88.
“I couldn’t locate a fastball,” Doyle said. “I’m not sure what it was, but I was trying to throw out and trying to throw in. Everything was up in the zone. Just a bunch of bad stuff happening.”