Molitor expects Duffey to make rotation

Nolasco, Milone, May and Berrios competing for final starting spot

Molitor expects Duffey to make rotation

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Twins' rotation competition is essentially down to one open spot, as manager Paul Molitor said Tuesday he expects right-hander Tyler Duffey to be one of the club's five starters to begin the season.

Right-handers Ervin Santana, Kyle Gibson and Phil Hughes were considered locks, but Duffey was expected to compete for one of two spots in the rotation along with veterans Tommy Milone and Ricky Nolasco and fellow youngsters Trevor May and Jose Berrios. But Molitor said he saw enough from Duffey in his 10 starts as a rookie last year to tentatively pencil him in as one of the club's five starters.

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"I would imagine that it would probably [take] something fairly significant to get him bumped out of there," Molitor said. "We haven't locked in all five spots. Our expectation is he's going to take hold of one of them."

Duffey, 25, was perhaps the club's best starter down the stretch last year, when he went 5-1 with a 3.10 ERA in 10 starts as a rookie. Duffey, who struck out 53 and walked 20 in 58 innings, also went 5-0 with a 2.25 ERA after a shaky big league debut in Toronto on Aug. 5.

Duffey did see a sizable increase in innings pitched last year, as he went from 149 1/3 innings in 2014 to a career-high 196 innings between the Minors and Majors in '15. But the Twins believe he handled the workload fine, and he's not under any restrictions this spring.

Duffey's excellent start

"I'm not overly concerned about it," Molitor said. "He's affirmed to everybody, training staff and everyone else, that he feels great. There's been no carryover from the fact he threw close to 200 innings."

If all goes to plan, it leaves Milone, Nolasco, May and Berrios as four starters competing for that final spot. Milone, the lone lefty, had a 3.92 ERA in 128 1/3 innings last year and figures to be the frontrunner. But Nolasco is still due $25 million over the next two seasons, so the Twins will give him a long look this spring. May is likely to head to the bullpen, and, barring an exceptional spring, Berrios will start at Triple-A Rochester.

Worth noting

• The Twins announced their theme nights for the 2016 season, including the Twins Hall of Fame weekend on July 16-17. 

• The Twins held their annual photo day on Tuesday, as players wore their white home jerseys for photos and on-field camera interviews before the workout. MLB.com also sent its social media team, helping players with any questions about their social media accounts. But don't expect Molitor to join Twitter any time soon.

"I'm trying to think of what I have to gain," Molitor said. "I have time to lose, and I have potential of sending something out I regret."

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.