There are 20 days left before the Twins open their 2016 season in Baltimore. As the roster is pared and positions begin to solidify, it's the arms race that remains the most curious.
On paper, Twins starting pitching is poised to be better to start the season than in recent years. Although manager Paul Molitor hasn't made it official, rotation locks will likely be right handers Ervin Santana, Kyle Gibson and Phil Hughes. Twenty-five year-old right hander Tyler Duffey is hoping to make the Opening Day roster. Duffey was impressive in 2015, leading the staff in strikeouts per nine innings with 8.22 strikeouts per 9 innings.
This spring, lefty Tommie Milone is making lots of noise for a spot in the rotation. Out of minor league options, Milone used his third start to throw four scoreless innings with 2 strikeouts, just one hit while retiring the first 11 Cardinal batters he faced. Molitor likes what he sees, telling MLB.com, "It was fun to watch, just using all his pitches. He's had a nice spring. Really from the beginning, he's looked pretty sharp. He's been moving in that direction all spring."
If Milone holds on to secure his spot, that will leave one starting nod available for Duffey and two other pitchers making their play: Twins 2015 minor league pitcher of the year Jose Berrios and veteran right hander Ricky Nolasco.
Molitor insists he's made no final decision and that he'll make the tough choices when its time. If numbers are an indicator, Nolasco's spring statistics of 7 innings with a 7.36 ERA could put closure to his call to a starter in 2016.