Liriano a keeper in Twins bullpen

— The foundation may be poured, but the concrete isn’t quite yet set on the Minnesota Twins pitching staff.

The team reassigned veteran left-hander Dennys Reyes to minor league camp on Wednesday, leaving the Twins with 12 pitchers in camp.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has said the club will break camp with 11 pitchers, and the 12th, lefty Dave Gassner, was placed on the disabled list Wednesday with a strained elbow.

The moves mean left-handed pitching prospect Francisco Liriano appears to have won a big-league bullpen slot and Cape Coral resident Scott Baker, who went 3-3 in nine starts for the Twins last year, has earned the No. 5 slot in the starting rotation.

It also appears Willie Eyre, whose brother Scott pitches for the Chicago Cubs, will make the club as a long reliever.

But none of those decisions are final. Gardenhire said the team would be monitoring the waiver wire this week as other teams thin their rosters and wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a trade.

“We have 11 here in camp, yes,” Gardenhire said, “but we have not named our 11 pitchers because you never know what might happen on the wire. So we’re going to leave that wide open.”

Liriano struck out three and allowed three earned runs in three innings in relief of Carlos Silva on Wednesday, but didn’t figure in the decision of the Twins’ 5-4 win over Baltimore at Hammond Stadium.

Liriano — 12-7 in 27 starts last season between Double-A New Britain and Triple-A Rochester — said he doesn’t anticipate any problems adjusting to a bullpen role.

“I feel about the same, coming in from the bullpen,” Liriano said. “I’ll get used to it.”

Right fielder Jason Kubel made a strong pitch to stay on the big-league roster by driving in three runs against the Orioles.

Kubel hit his first home run of the spring, a two-run shot to right-center, then smashed a line-drive sacrifice to right that drove in Justin Tyner in the eighth. Kubel, who missed last season with a knee injury but says it’s a non-factor now, also chased down a tough fly ball in right field.

“This is the time (of the spring) I need to show something,” Kubel said, “and hope it works out.”

Michael Cuddyer is penciled in as the starting right fielder, but he’s been slowed by an oblique strain. Cuddyer took full batting practice and tossed up to 200 feet Wednesday. He’ll play in a minor league game today as a designated hitter.

Still, Gardenhire said he doesn’t want Cuddyer to rush his recovery entering the regular season.

“This is something that can come back in a heartbeat,” Gardenhire said. “If you get into a game and have to wheel and spin and let it fly, that’s when something can happen. ... He feels good and he wants back out there, but I know from experience what happens here.”

In other moves, the Twins sent catcher Shawn Wooten and infielders Luis Maza and Glenn Williams to the team’s minor-league camp. Minnesota returned outfielder Jason Pridie, a Rule 5 selection, to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, where he was reassigned to Triple-A Durham.

Also, the Detroit Tigers claimed catcher Rob Bowen off waivers, leaving the Twins with 29 players in camp.

COMING UP: The Twins travel to Bradenton today to play the Pittsburgh Pirates. Johan Santana will start for Minnesota against Brandon Duckworth at 1:05 p.m.

Minnesota will play its final home game against major leaguers this spring at 1:05 p.m. Friday when the Pirates visit Hammond Stadium. Brad Radke will pitch against Zach Duke.

The Twins then visit the Pirates on Saturday, and play their final game of the spring at home on Sunday afternoon against the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings. All proceeds from Sunday’s game will benefit youth sports impacted by hurricanes Charley and Wilma.

TWIN BILLS: Designated hitter Rondell White won the game with a game-ending, two-run single in the bottom of the ninth. ... Former Twins pitcher LaTroy Hawkins threw one inning of scoreless relief Wednesday for the Orioles. He gave up a double to Juan Castro and loaded the bases with a two-out walk, but got White to pop out and retire the side. ... Third baseman Tony Batista was 0-for-3, dropping his average to .216. ... The Twins have drawn 7,241 fans per game this spring, which ranks fourth in the Grapefruit League behind the Yankees (Tampa), Braves (Kissimmee) and cross-town Red Sox. ... Minnesota improved to 16-13 with Wednesday’s win. ... Joe Nathan picked up the win by pitching a perfect ninth.

Making the cut

Who’s in?

LHP Francisco Liriano

RHP Willie Eyre

RHP Scott Baker

Who’s out?

LHP Dave Gassner (placed on DL)

C Rob Bowen (claimed by Detroit)

C Shawn Wooten (reassigned to minor-league camp)

IF Glenn Williams (reassigned)

IF Luis Maza (reassigned)

OF Jason Pridie (Rule 5 pick sent back to Tampa Bay)

© 2006 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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