Shortstop remains Nick Gordon’s ‘primary position,’ Twins’ Derek Falvey says
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Jorge Polanco’s 80-game steroid suspension won’t change the Twins’ plans to keep increasing the versatility of young shortstop Nick Gordon, one of their top prospects.
Gordon, reassigned to minor-league camp on Sunday after hitting .409 with two triples in 13 games this spring, played almost exclusively at second base. According to Derek Falvey, the Twins’ chief baseball officer, shortstop remains Gordon’s “primary position” but the 2014 first-round draft pick will remain flexible.
“We’ve seen how rosters are run of late, especially for young players,” Falvey said. “The ability to go stand at third, play a little second, could be beneficial to him.”
Gordon, 22, finished last season at Double-A Chattanooga, where he struggled at the plate after playing in the All-Star Futures Game in Miami last July. Falvey couldn’t put a percentage of how Gordon’s playing time might be divided this season.
There has been no talk yet about having Gordon try the outfield, where older brother Dee Gordon is transitioning into a center fielder this spring for the Seattle Mariners.
“I don’t know if we’re at the stage where we could say exactly where he goes,” Falvey said. “Our intention is for him to play shortstop. I think we’ll focus a little more on the infield positional versatility, but we’ll see.”
The Twins on Monday evening were still looking at a potential trade involving switch-hitting slugger Kennys Vargas, who was designated for release or assignment on March 16.
Rival clubs believe Vargas, 27, would likely be claimed on waivers, which would be the Twins’ last resort in a week-long period that follows a DFA. It doesn’t bode well for their leverage that Vargas is out of minor-league options.
To acquire Triple-A outfielder Jake Cave from the New York Yankees last week, the Twins gave up only 19-year-old righty Luis Gil, who has yet to pitch above the Dominican Summer League. Cave still has all three of his minor-league option years remaining.
Former Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Tommy Joseph, who hit 43 home runs over the past two seasons, was lost on waivers to the Texas Rangers on Monday after being designated for assignment.
The Twins have until Friday to make a decision on veteran utility man Erick Aybar, signed on Feb. 24.
Aybar, 34, has the contractual right to request his release if he’s not added to the Twins’ big-league roster by Friday, according to a person with direct knowledge. That’s one day earlier than typical Article XX (B) free agents that must be added to the roster by noon Eastern on Saturday or paid a $100,000 retention bonus.
How has Aybar, slowed briefly by a strained muscle in his side, looked at shortstop this spring?
“I think he’s been fine,” Falvey said. “Spring training, I’m really wary about overanalyzing the individual plays, but he’s a pro. He’s been experienced. Not every team has (Eduardo) Escobar and (Ehire) Adrianza already on their roster.”
With Polanco headed to the restricted list, the Twins would have one open spot on their 40-man roster. If he’s added to the roster, Aybar’s contract calls for him to be paid a big-league salary of $1.25 million with up to another $250,000 in bonuses, starting at 250 plate appearances.
As of Monday, Falvey said the Twins had yet to ask Aybar if he would be open to going to Triple-A Rochester to open the season.
Aybar, Falvey said, came to the Twins with a reputation as “somebody who was really a great leader around some of our young Latin players.”
In particular, he shares an agency with Twins third baseman Miguel Sano, to whom he has become a sort of mentor.
Right-hander Kyle Gibson, on track to pitch the second game of the season on March 31 in Baltimore, was slated to make a start Tuesday in a minor-league game.
Polanco is still eligible to play in minor-league games this spring but he may not appear in a Grapefruit League game now that he has accepted his 80-game suspension. Polanco will continue his preparations in extended spring training in April and May and is eligible for a 20-game rehab assignment as he points toward a June 30 return to the Twins at Wrigley Field.