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Notes: Gardenhire hints at rotation

Notes: Gardenhire hints at finalized rotation

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Twins have yet to make any official announcements as to which pitchers will be in their starting rotation behind ace Johan Santana.

But if the pitching schedule for the upcoming week is any indication, it appears that the rotation race is starting to sort itself out.

On Sunday, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire revealed the plan for how the schedule will set up following the team's off-day Monday. The schedule is set up like this:

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Tuesday: Glen Perkins against the Red Sox with Ramon Ortiz throwing in a Minor League game
Wednesday: Sidney Ponson
Thursday: Boof Bonser
Friday: Santana
Saturday: Carlos Silva

Both Santana and Silva threw on Sunday, with Silva pitching in a Minor League game across the parking lot at the Twins' Lee County Sports Complex. But Gardenhire said that once the team comes back from the off-day, the starters will remain on their normal five-day schedule.

So the current pitching schedule appears to hint at a rotation that would look like this: Santana, Silva, Ortiz, Ponson and Bonser.

Gardenhire has been hesitant this spring to label any of his pitchers as locks, besides Santana. But despite his unwillingness to officially anoint any other starters, Gardenhire has pretty much grouped Silva and Ortiz into that staff, and Bonser's recent strong outings have made him look like a lock, as well.

The one real unknown comes in the final spot, where Ponson is now slotted. The Twins have given the veteran every opportunity to show he deserved the spot this spring. And after Ponson's recent solid outing against his former team, the Orioles, it now looks like he could have the edge for the final opening.

The decision to have Perkins stretch out in a start indicates that the Twins could be placing him next in line, should anything happen. Matt Garza only threw two innings in his last outing on Friday, and it appears he would need to stretch out more if he's going to be ready for a starting spot.

Watch out, league: Santana's changeup has always been a good indicator of where he is, in regard to being ready for the season.

In past springs, Santana has shown a tendency to leave his changeup up in the zone at times, or miss with the pitch by bouncing some in the dirt. But this year, Santana's changeup has looked remarkably like the one that he has later in the regular season.

After throwing five scoreless innings against the Phillies on Sunday, giving up only one hit while throwing 62 pitches, Santana feels more ready to go than in previous years.

"Before, you could see that my changeup wasn't there at this point of spring, but it's there now," Santana said. "I also have a good feeling about the mechanics. I'm working on my legs and stretching every day. That's why I'm feeling comfortable and am able to throw everything. I'm feeling much better at this point than in past years."

Time for a look: It's been a long wait, but the Twins are finally starting to get a look at infielder Alejandro Machado.

Machado took infield drills for the first time before Sunday's game. Machado then took part in the Minor League game as a designated hitter and was able to get in four at-bats.

The Twins appear to be in a rush to get a good look at Machado, with only 12 days of camp remaining. While other players are being given a full day off on Monday, Machado will arrive at the park early to participate in the Minor League schedule and then get at-bats in another game.

"He'll go through their whole program, do all the fundamentals, take another infield, and then get more at-bats," Gardenhire said. "And we'll see where we're at there."

Sinking feeling: Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson weren't in attendance for the early part of Sunday's game, as they went to watch Silva throw in a game that pitted Triple-A Rochester against Double-A New Britain.

Despite Silva giving up some runs, including a home run to the opposite field by a lefty, Gardenhire was encouraged by the movement in Silva's sinker. There are still times when the motion is a bit robotic, but the hope is that Silva can get that pitch to work along with his changeup.

"He definitely needs to change speeds more," Gardenhire said. "If he's too hard on everything, that's when it really blends together."

Cutting down: The Twins reduced their camp numbers again on Sunday with a few big names being sent down.

Outfielder Denard Span and right-hander Kevin Slowey were among the cuts. The reasoning behind the cuts is to get both Span and Slowey ready for full-time roles at Triple-A Rochester. With the regulars starting to get more playing time in games and the innings getting drastically cut down for pitchers at camp, the team felt both players would benefit from being in Minor League camp.

But Gardenhire had a feeling that both players would be seen at the big-league level sometime this season.

"I think we all know [Slowey] has a very good opportunity to pitch in the big leagues, if not this year then very soon -- more likely this year," Gardenhire said. "And Denard is not going to be off our bench, so he needs to go down and play. He looks like a guy that's real close to the big leagues, too."

The Twins also made other cuts to reduce their number of pitchers in camp, as the team reassigned left-handed pitchers Carmen Cali and Jason Miller and right-handed pitcher Jeremy Cummings to Minor League camp. Cali, who signed a Minor League deal with the club this past December, amassed a 12.71 ERA in 5 2/3 innings of work this spring.

Only 42 players now remain in camp for the Twins.

Twins tidbits: With the Orioles tabbing left-hander Eric Bedard to start Opening Day, it appears that the Twins' lineup from Sunday's game will be the one the team trots out in its first regular-season game. That would be: Luis Castillo 2B, Nick Punto 3B, Joe Mauer C, Michael Cuddyer RF, Justin Morneau 1B, Torii Hunter CF, Rondell White LF, Jeff Cirillo DH, Jason Bartlett SS. ... Santana made a throwing error in Sunday's game that occurred after the only hit he gave up on the day. ... Slowey had a bit of a rough outing before getting sent down to Minor League camp on Sunday. The right-hander gave up three runs on four hits in one inning. It was the first runs he had given up all spring.

Coming up: The Twins will enjoy an off-day Monday before heading across town on Tuesday night to face the Red Sox in a 6:05 p.m. CT start. Perkins will get the start for Minnesota.

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["spring_training" ] }
{"content":["spring_training" ] }