Rotation depth to be flushed out during camp

Twins' starters expected to continue to show improvement

Rotation depth to be flushed out during camp

MINNEAPOLIS -- One of the top priorities for Twins general manager Terry Ryan in recent years was to help bring much-needed rotation depth to the organization.

Minnesota starters finished with the highest ERA in the Majors in both 2013 and 2014, but the rotation started to turn it around last season, as it had the 16th-best ERA, which helped the Twins remain competitive and finish with their first winning record since 2010.

The Twins finally have some options in their rotation, although there are still questions on how the rotation will shake out in Spring Training.

"You look at the rotation, we have depth there," Twins manager Paul Molitor said at the Winter Meetings. "We can argue how they are going to be slotted in terms of not only who the five will be, but how they will go one through five. But we have some competition, as well as depth."

Some spots in the rotation are essentially guaranteed, barring injury, but here's a look at Minnesota's rotation options in 2016:

RHP Ervin Santana: Santana was suspended the first 80 games of the 2015 season for the use of performance-enhancing drugs, but he pitched well upon his return, going 7-5 with a 4.00 ERA in 17 starts, including a 1.62 ERA over his final seven outings. He's likely the club's Opening Day starter.

RHP Kyle Gibson: Gibson was solid for the Twins in '15, going 11-11 with a 3.94 ERA in 194 2/3 innings. He remains a ground-ball machine, and his strikeout rate rose as the season went along. He's still developing as a pitcher, but he took a big step forward last season and is considered a lock to be in the rotation.

RHP Phil Hughes: Hughes couldn't replicate his strong season from 2014, as he dealt with injuries and went 11-9 with a 4.40 ERA in 25 starts. The Twins are optimistic Hughes will bounce back, but he has something to prove after his down year. He's also expected to be a part of the rotation.

RHP Tyler Duffey: Duffey was a pleasant surprise, going 5-1 with a 3.10 ERA in 10 starts for the Twins. His curveball was his biggest weapon, and he was able to strike out 53 batters in 58 innings. He's likely to start the year in the rotation, but he has to prove his 10-game stretch wasn't a fluke.

LHP Tommy Milone: Milone is the lone lefty of the group and filled in nicely for the Twins last year, going 9-5 with a 3.92 ERA in 128 2/3 innings. He doesn't throw hard but has a career 3.97 ERA. He'll be in the mix for a spot in the rotation, but he will have to compete for the job like he did last spring.

RHP Trevor May: May is an interesting case, as he has the stuff to be a starter, but excelled after a move to the bullpen last season. Given the club's bullpen situation, Molitor has hinted he'd like May back as a power-arm reliever next season, but May will get the chance to come into spring as a starter, which remains his preference.

RHP Ricky Nolasco: Nolasco has struggled in his two years with the Twins, posting a 5.64 ERA in 35 starts. He dealt with several injuries last season, including an elbow strain and an ankle injury that required surgery. There are still two years and $25 million on his contract, so the Twins will give him every chance to win a job this spring. But he could head to the bullpen in long relief if he can't crack the rotation.

RHP Jose Berrios: Berrios is the club's top pitching prospect and is ranked No. 20 overall by MLBPipeline.com. He led the Minor Leagues in strikeouts last season and is very close to being Major League ready. With the club's options in the rotation, Berrios is not likely to make the team out of Spring Training, but he is expected to make his Major League debut this year.

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