Saturday, January 12, 2013

Numbers game

The Twins will have more than 70 players in camp next month -- the 40 on the major-league roster plus 34 (at this point) non-roster invitees. Add in the manager and coaches and subtract the eight retired numbers, and there are going to be a lot of high jersey numbers running around the complex in Fort Myers, Fla.

The rule of thumb is: Returning jersey wearers retain their number unless they want to switch. Newcomers to the 40 get dibs on what's available. Nonroster guys who have had major league time can keep the number if it's still available. The others are just happy to have a number.

Having spent more time looking at the open numbers than it merits, a few (too many) thoughts and comments:

* Ryan Doumit, who wore 18 last year, was reported by LaVelle Neal to have asked for No. 9, which was opened by the dismissal of coach Steve Liddle. When I read that, I figured that Doumit had worn 9 while at Pittsburgh. But no, he wore 41. No idea why he wants 9.

* Vance Worley, a pitcher acquirred from Philadelphia in the Ben Revere trade, wore 49 with the Phillies, and 49 is available. (That was worn in recent seasons by Jeff Manship, who is no longer in the organization.) That number is in the range that usually goes to a pitcher, so I expect Worley to be 49.

* Twins fans of advancing age know that Tom Brunansky was No. 24 as a player with the Twins in the 1980s. Trevor Plouffe has 24 now. I doubt Bruno's history will trump Plouffe's squatter's rights to the number. Bruno wore 23 with the Cardinals and Red Sox and 18 with the Brewers. Chris Herrmann is 23 now, and 18 is, as noted, apparently open. Or perhaps Bruno will migrate to a number in the low-to-mid 40s with most of the coaching staff; 43 and 47 are open.

*Terry Steinbach wore 36 his entire career, and it's probably available (worn last season by Clete Thomas, who's still around but not on the 40). I'd be surprised if Steinbach's not wearing 36.

* No. 4 hasn't been issued since Paul Molitor rejoined the organization, and even with the number squeeze, I don't think it will be used this year either  -- unless Ron Gardenhire is fired in midseason and Molly inherits the job.

* As a general rule, the higher the number the less chance a player has. In that light, it will be interesting to see who gets some prime digits. Open at this point: 1, 2, 11, 12, 13, 18, 22, 30 and 32. Plus, 17, 21 and 26 are currently held by non-roster guys (Lester Oliveros, Sam Deduno and Brian Dinkelman, respectively; I don't know if they'll even issue a number to Oliveros.) If I had to pick a number to assign to a young player, it would be No. 11 for Aaron Hicks.

* I mentioned 13 (Jerry White) being available. Given the superstitious nature of many players, 13 is only likely to be issued to somebody who really wants it. (Joe Benson -- No. 63 now -- could use a change of luck.)

* P.J. Walters and Anthony Slama each wore 39 in their previous tenures with the Twins. Neither is on the 40-man roster; both are invitees. Which gets the number -- or will it go elsewhere rather than imply that the one who gets it ranks above the other in the pecking order?

*Josh Roenicke is an interesting puzzle. He's been with three teams and worn six different numbers (indicative of how fragile his status has been). Last year, his best season, he wore 30, and that's been vacated by Scott Baker. If he's superstitious, Roenicke might wish to stick with 30.

*Kevin Correia's worn 29 for the past four seasons, but that's retired in Minnesota (Rod Carew). He'll need a change.

* Mike Pelfrey wore 34 with the Mets, but that's retired in Minnesota (Kirby Puckett). He'll need a change.

* Rich Harden's spent most of his career wearing No. 40, which belongs here to Rick Anderson. He's also worn 16 (Josh Willingham) and 18. No idea where he's going.

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