Depth gives Twins options for No. 5 starter

Milone, Pelfrey, May and Meyer among candidates

Depth gives Twins options for No. 5 starter

MINNEAPOLIS -- With the signing of right-hander Ervin Santana to a four-year, $55 million deal last week, the Twins appear to have just one spot open in the rotation for this upcoming season.

Santana is expected to join right-handers Phil Hughes, Ricky Nolasco and Kyle Gibson in the rotation, while the fifth spot is up for grabs. Hughes was undoubtedly the club's ace last year, while Gibson showed promise in his first full season as a starter. Nolasco struggled with a 5.38 ERA in 27 starts, but he dealt with an elbow strain throughout the season and the Twins expect him to bounce back in 2015.

The Twins have plenty of starting-pitching depth now with several candidates to take the fifth spot in the rotation. Here's a look at those candidates:

Tommy Milone, LHP: Milone, 27, is the lone left-handed option and has seen success as a big league starter with a career 3.98 ERA in 86 outings. But he didn't fare well with the Twins after being acquired from the A's at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline for outfielder Sam Fuld. Milone had a 3.55 ERA in 16 starts with Oakland, but he posted a 7.06 ERA in 21 2/3 innings with the Twins. Milone dealt with injuries during his time in Minnesota, as he went through a bout with dead arm and a strained neck, so given his track record, he'll get his chance to win the fifth spot in Spring Training.

Milone escapes jam

Mike Pelfrey, RHP: Pelfrey is coming off an injury, as the 30-year-old made just five starts with a 7.99 ERA before undergoing season-ending elbow surgery in June. He's expected to be healthy heading into Spring Training, but he has a 5.56 ERA in 34 starts since joining the Twins in '13. He'll get the chance to start, but he could be moved to the bullpen to see if his stuff plays up as a reliever much like Royals reliever Wade Davis, who was converted from starting with great results.

Trevor May, RHP: May got his first taste of the Majors last season, but it didn't go to plan, with a 7.88 ERA in nine starts and one relief appearance. He did strike out 44 batters in 45 2/3 innings, but he walked 22 and gave up seven homers. So May still needs to work on his consistency and is likely to start the year at Triple-A Rochester. The 25-year-old remains one of the club's better pitching prospects.

Meyer's scoreless relief

Alex Meyer, RHP: Meyer is one of baseball's top pitching prospects, but he has yet to make his MLB debut. Meyer, ranked as the No. 27 prospect by MLB.com, put up solid numbers at Triple-A Rochester with a 3.52 ERA and 153 strikeout in 130 1/3 innings but wasn't called up late in the year because of a minor shoulder injury. Meyer, 24, will get the chance to compete for a starting spot in Spring Training, but he is likely to start the year at Triple-A. There's also a chance the Twins could use Meyer as a reliever in the Majors to get his feet wet before he returns to starting.

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.