The Twins hit the road Friday (playing to a 2-2 tie with the Pirates), and the wife and I had our usual day on Sanibel Island. It was a baseball-free day.
More or less. I did eye the Twins lineup for the game in Bradenton, and noted that Danny Santana was slated to start at third base.
Friday was the third spring game for the Twins, and the third game in which Santana appeared -- and at four different positions. He took over center field when Byron Buxton left the first game and was the sub for Miguel Sano in right in the second game (in which Santana homered). And on Friday he started at third and moved to second later in the game, playing all nine innings.
Quite a difference from last spring, when the Twins pretended that there was a shortstop competition between Santana and Eduardo Escobar. The competition was, in truth, merely lip service; Santana was never used in spring training other than at shortstop. As things turned out, Santana neither hit nor fielded competently during the regular season. This spring, Escobar is ensconced as the shortstop, and Santana -- who is out of options -- has to make the team as a utility guy.
Oh, he may be Plan B for center field. Or maybe Max Kepler is. But Byron Buxton is Plan A, and one aspect of the Twins bench this year figures to be the need for a fourth outfielder who can be used not only as a backup in center field but as a defensive substitute for Miguel Sano in right.
Figure that the Twins will open the season with 12 pitchers. That leaves room on the roster for 13 position players, nine of them regulars (including the DH) and four as reserves. One of the four, obviously, will be the second catcher. If Santana is capable of being both the backup middle infielder and the glove-oriented fourth outfielder, it would open up a lot of other possibilities.