Twins set rotation for first 5 spring games

Gibson starts Friday, followed by Hughes, May, Santana & Santiago

Twins set rotation for first 5 spring games

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Twins announced their rotation for the first five Spring Training games, revealing clues about who will start Opening Day and what the competition looks like for the fifth-starter job. 

Twins manager Paul Molitor had previously announced that Kyle Gibson will start the Grapefruit League opener against the Rays on Friday night at Hammond Stadium (6:05 CT, live on Gameday Audio) and that Phil Hughes will start against the Red Sox on Saturday at JetBlue Park. Trevor May will start Sunday against the Nationals and will be piggybacked by Jose Berrios, as they're both the top two candidates for the fifth-starter job. Ervin Santana gets the nod on Monday vs. the Marlins and Hector Santiago starts Tuesday against the Rays in Port Charlotte, Fla. 

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Gibson will also get a chance to show off his reworked delivery in his first start of the spring on Friday, and Molitor is excited to see how he fares. Molitor also gave his tentative lineup behind Gibson, with center fielder Byron Buxton leading off, followed by shortstop Jorge Polanco, third baseman Miguel Sano, first baseman Kennys Vargas, designated hitter Byungho Park, right fielder Max Kepler, left fielder Eddie Rosario, catcher Jason Castro and second baseman Ehire Adrianza.

"I think the message for [Gibson] this spring hasn't been much different," Molitor said. "A thinker that we're trying to get to simplify, maybe learn how to use stuff better with an aggressive mindset. Your first day out there, I'm sure you're just trying to get to 30 pitches. I'm sure you're going to have a little bit of purpose to what you're doing, but [this is] kind of the first hurdle of getting into game situations."

The order of the rotation also essentially lines up Santana to start every fifth day leading up to the team's Opening Day matchup against the Royals on April 3 at Target Field. If everything else holds -- and it could change with Santiago and Berrios set to pitch for Team Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic -- Santana would be followed by Santiago, Gibson, Hughes and then the winner of the fifth-starter competition.

The fifth-starter role has several candidates, but May and Berrios are considered the top two. Others include Tyler Duffey, Ryan Vogelsong, Adalberto Mejia and Rule 5 Draft pick Justin Haley. Duffey, Vogelsong and Mejia are all scheduled to pitch on Saturday, while Haley is slated for Friday.

The competition for the fifth-starter role is one of several to watch out for this spring, as Molitor said there are competitions for the backup catcher role, bench spots and at least four openings in the bullpen.

"We've got some people that are going to push people, which is good," Molitor said.

Worth noting 

• First baseman Joe Mauer isn't expected to play in his first Grapefruit League game until Wednesday because this spring is longer due to the World Baseball Classic. Second baseman Brian Dozier also won't play in his first game until Sunday.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for 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.