Graham, Rogers among 6 Twins sent to Minors

Graham, Rogers among 6 Twins sent to Minors

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- After their split-squad games on Tuesday, the Twins trimmed their roster by six on Wednesday in a series of moves which included optioning relievers Taylor Rogers and J.R. Graham to Triple-A Rochester.

Additionally, the Twins also reassigned LHP Buddy Boshers, C Carlos Paulino, 2B Buck Britton and 2B Wilfredo Tovar to Minor League camp. Those moves leave 37 players at Twins camp, and nine of those players are non-roster invitees.

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The moves also reduce the number of situational lefties in camp to four, leaving Fernando Abad, Logan Darnell, Ryan O'Rourke and Dan Runzler to compete for a spot in the bullpen. Of the four, O'Rourke is the lone candidate on the 40-man roster, but Abad is considered a slight favorite to make the team.

The decision to option Rogers was the biggest surprise, as he was considered a strong candidate to win a job in the bullpen. But this spring marked the first time Rogers had pitched in relief after starting in the Minors for the last four years. Rogers is ranked as Minnesota's No. 14 prospect by MLBPipeline.com and has a career 3.29 ERA in the Minors. He has played in the Arizona Fall League each of the last two years.

"He was behind some people," Twins general manager Terry Ryan said. "But we have high hopes for Taylor Rogers."

Ryan added that Rogers will remain in the bullpen to open the season at Rochester because he's not stretched out to start.

"We'll start him in the 'pen and then inch him up some," Ryan said. "It'll be good for him. He'll see what it's like to be in that bullpen. But how long that'll be, we'll see."

Graham's three scoreless frames

Graham spent the entire 2015 season with the Twins as a Rule 5 Draft pick, posting a 4.95 ERA with 53 strikeouts and 21 walks in 63 2/3 innings. But Graham, who lost roughly 30 pounds this offseason, posted a 6.35 ERA in six spring appearances.

"He's got velocity, but I think it's just consistency," Ryan said. "He's athletic, he's competitive, he's aggressive. Now it's a matter of executing his pitches more consistently."

With the moves, the bullpen is starting to round into form, as Glen Perkins, Kevin Jepsen, Casey Fien and Trevor May are locks for the unit. One of either Ricky Nolasco or Tommy Milone could head to the bullpen as well, depending on the outcome of the rotation competition.

It that's the case, it leaves two spots open -- one for a lefty reliever and another for a hard-throwing right-hander. Right-hander Ryan Pressly is considered the favorite for the latter role, while righty Michael Tonkin will continue to get a long look this spring despite his struggles because he's out of Minor League options.

"Ultimately, we have seven relievers still hanging around, so we need to sort it out," Ryan said. "But the back end is in good shape. You got Fien, you got Jepsen, you got May and you got Perkins."

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.