Inbox: Mulling good candidates for relief help

Twins beat reporter Rhett Bollinger responds to fans' questions

Inbox: Mulling good candidates for relief help

MINNEAPOLIS -- With the annual Diamond Awards coming up on Thursday and TwinsFest this weekend, it's a sure sign that Spring Training is right around the corner.

Things can still happen with the Twins' roster, but time is starting to run out with pitchers and catchers set to report to Fort Myers, Fla. on Feb. 14. With that in mind, here's this week's Twins Inbox:

As manager Paul Molitor mentioned last week on Twins Caravan, the Twins are monitoring the relief market and could add a veteran to their bullpen. Notable free-agent relievers include Joe Blanton, Greg Holland, Tommy Hunter, Sergio Romo, Joe Smith and former Twins closer Joe Nathan.

With Glen Perkins returning from injury and Brandon Kintzler on the roster, the Twins aren't looking for a closer, but simply a veteran arm to join an inexperienced bullpen that is expected to lean heavily on relievers such as Ryan Pressly and Taylor Rogers.

Molitor also gave updates on both Perkins and Phil Hughes while on caravan, but both surgeries carry a fair amount of risk, so it's hard to assume they'll both be healthy and their usual selves this season. Perkins, coming off labrum surgery, has a much tougher road than Hughes, who had rib resection surgery to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome.

Perkins, though, has been working hard to make a comeback, as he's been rehabbing at the club's Spring Training complex in Fort Myers since early January. They're hopeful he'll throw off a mound by early-to-mid February with a chance to get into Spring Training games in mid-March. If he's not ready to open the year, Kintzler is the natural replacement at closer.

Hughes, meanwhile, has already started his throwing program and should be on a normal schedule once Spring Training begins. But the Twins will be cautious with Hughes, and if he opens the year on the disabled list, it'll open the door for another youngster to make the rotation, such as Jose Berrios or even Trevor May.

May fans Napoli to end the 9th

This is a fun question, and there are several Twins prospects who aren't likely to make the team but could have an impact this season, such as Stephen Gonsalves, Nick Burdi, Mason Melotakis, Daniel Palka and Mitch Garver. There's even a chance a pitcher such as Berrios or May goes to the Minors to open the year to work on things.

But I'm going to go with lefty Adalberto Mejia, who is likely to start the year at Triple-A Rochester but is very close to being Major League ready. Mejia, acquired in the trade that sent Eduardo Nunez to the Giants, has the size and stuff to be a solid mid-rotation starter and should get his first extended crack in the Majors this year.

Mejia's MLB debut

At this point, a Brian Dozier trade is looking increasingly less likely, which means the Twins will open with Dozier at second and Jorge Polanco at short. But as noted before, there are several people even within the Twins' organization who believe Polanco is better suited for second and isn't a good enough defender at short.

While there have been no rumblings about a Polanco trade, it could make sense if they want to upgrade defensively at short and keep Dozier. They could sign a veteran such as Erick Aybar for defensive reasons and then have Eduardo Escobar around as the backup. Danny Santana can play short, but he is more of an outfielder now.

Polanco's impressive play

It's a very important question, but unfortunately the new foods will not be announced until right before the start of the season. There's even a media event to taste the new food and beverage items, but I always miss it while I'm at Spring Training.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. 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.