Twins have plenty of options for back of rotation

Milone, Pelfrey and Stauffer top list of candidates

Twins have plenty of options for back of rotation

MINNEAPOLIS -- One of the biggest battles in camp for the Twins this spring figures to be for the fifth spot in the rotation, and the Twins aren't lacking in options.

With the struggles of the starting rotation over the last four seasons, building rotation depth has been a goal of the organization, and general manager Terry Ryan believes the Twins finally have capable options at the back of their rotation. With Phil Hughes, Kyle Gibson and Ricky Nolasco considered rotation locks and with the signing of Ervin Santana to a four-year deal worth $55 million, there is essentially just one open spot in the rotation.

"I think that was one of the main objectives we tried to accomplish to create competition for openings," Ryan said. "Now it's just about who is going to step up. We have numbers."

The Twins have a mix of veterans such as Tommy Milone, Mike Pelfrey and Tim Stauffer competing for that final spot, as well as top prospects such as Trevor May, Alex Meyer and Jose Berrios. Here's a look at those options:

Milone escapes jam

Milone, LHP: Given his track record, Milone is the favorite to win the fifth spot in the rotation, but he needs to prove it after his struggles with the Twins last season after being traded from the A's. After posting a 3.55 ERA in 16 starts with the A's, Milone, 28, had a 7.06 ERA in six appearances with the Twins. But a small benign tumor was found in Milone's neck this offseason and removed and he's now healthy.

2015 Spring Training: Twins

Pelfrey, RHP: Pelfrey, 31, made just five starts with a 7.99 ERA last season before undergoing season-ending elbow surgery in June. But he's currently healthy and will enter spring with no limitations. Pelfrey, a nine-year veteran, could be headed to the bullpen for the first time in his career if he doesn't win a starting job.

Twins sign right-hander Stauffer

Stauffer, RHP: Stauffer, who was signed to a one-year deal worth $2.2 million this offseason, will get a chance to compete for a spot in the rotation this spring. But the 32-year-old seems much more likely to be headed to a long-relief or middle-relief role considering his success as a reliever over the last two seasons with the Padres.

May's seven-strikeout game

May, RHP: May finished last season in the rotation with the Twins, getting his first taste of the Majors with a 7.88 ERA in 10 appearances. But he pitched much better his last few times out, giving the Twins some optimism for his future. May, 25, will get a chance to compete, but he is likely headed to Triple-A Rochester.

Top Prospects: Meyer, MIN

Meyer, RHP: Meyer, ranked as MLB.com's No. 29 overall prospect, has yet to make his Major League debut, but fared well at Triple-A last year with a 3.52 ERA and 153 strikeouts in 130 1/3 innings. Like May, he'll get a shot at the rotation, but the 25-year-old is likely opening the season at Triple-A, unless the Twins plan to break him in as a reliever.

Top Prospects: Berrios, MIN

Berrios, RHP: Berrios has seen his status as a top prospect soar and is now the No. 33 overall prospect as ranked by MLB.com. Berrios posted a 2.76 ERA across three levels last season, including making a final start at Triple-A. He's still just 20 and is likely opening the season at Double-A Chattanooga, but the Twins like what they have in the young right-hander.

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.