FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Minnesota's announcement that Aaron Hicks will start in center field proved service time played no role in the decision on how to handle the 23-year-old.
The Twins could have started Hicks, who has yet to play above the Double-A level, at Triple-A Rochester to delay his service time in the Majors. Based on service-time rules, the Twins could have pushed back his free agency a year by keeping him in the Minors for about a month.
Instead, the Twins announced Sunday that Hicks will be the starting center fielder, as he beat out Darin Mastroianni and Joe Benson for the job by hitting .353 with four homers, 16 RBIs, 16 runs and three stolen bases this spring.
"The guy has earned it," general manager Terry Ryan said. "I find it almost humorous that guys are talking service time and starting the clock. The guy has earned it."
Ryan said the Twins have never held a player back for service-time reasons since he took over as general manager in 1994. He said it wouldn't be fair to the player or his teammates if they deserved a roster spot.
"Can you imagine if we sent somebody out who did what the kid did?" Ryan said. "And I had to look at [Josh] Willingham, [Justin] Morneau, [Glen] Perkins, [Joe] Mauer and those guys who are trying to win, and I'm going to stop that guy? I just don't believe in that."
Pelfrey pleased with penultimate spring start
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Right-hander Mike Pelfrey turned in his best outing of the spring Monday in a 4-3 loss against the Cardinals and said he's excited about the start of the regular season.
Pelfrey, who had Tommy John surgery on May 1, gave up one run on five hits and a walk over five innings. He pitched on three days' rest, as he last threw in a Minor League game Thursday because Wednesday's game at Hammond Stadium was rained out.
"They wanted me to get back on my normal schedule, but I think it was a good sign to come back after just three days," Pelfrey said. "I felt great."
Pelfrey threw 84 pitches and said he hopes to get closer to 90-100 pitches in his last outing Saturday against the Red Sox in the Twins' last Spring Training game of the year. He said he doesn't know where he'll be slotted into the rotation once the season begins, but is just happy to be healthy, considering he had elbow surgery less than 11 months ago.
"I'm pleased with where we're at," Pelfrey said. "I'll have one more on Saturday and then we'll be ready for showtime."
Butera among Twins' moves as roster takes shape
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Twins' Opening Day roster began to take shape Monday, when the club optioned catcher Drew Butera to Triple-A Rochester, and re-assigned catcher Dan Rohlfing, outfielder Brandon Boggs, and infielders Jeff Clement and Ray Olmedo to Minor League camp.
The moves give the Twins 31 active players in big league camp, but that includes injured pitchers Tim Wood, Samuel Deduno, Rafael Perez and Rich Harden.
Wood, who was diagnosed Sunday with a right rotator cuff strain, is likely to start the year on the 15-day disabled list, while Deduno, who is not on the 40-man roster, will likely start at Triple-A Rochester as he recovers from a groin injury. Perez and Harden, who are both coming off shoulder surgery, are throwing off a mound, but will not be ready in time for the start of the season.
The decision to option Butera to Triple-A also means the Twins will open the season with two catchers on their roster in Joe Mauer and Ryan Doumit, which bodes well for non-roster invitee Wilkin Ramirez, who could make the team as a fifth outfielder if the Twins opt to carry 12 pitchers instead of 13.
"We're going to go with two catchers, and that's about as simple as I can put it," Twins general manager Terry Ryan said. "We're looking for a little more thump off our bench. And unfortunately, [Butera] got into that squeeze. He'll be back."
The Twins essentially have two more roster cuts to make, and it's expected to be from the group of right-hander P.J. Walters, left-handed reliever Tyler Robertson and Ramirez.
But manager Ron Gardenhire told Ramirez on Monday that as of now, he will be on the roster come Opening Day.
"At this point, he's in," Gardenhire said. "Things can change, but at this point, he's in. And we feel good about that. We're excited for him."
Right-handers Cole De Vries and Liam Hendriks are likely to be part of the rotation behind Vance Worley, Mike Pelfrey and Kevin Correia, with left-hander Scott Diamond on the 15-day disabled list. Walters is still in the mix for a spot, but isn't as stretched out as De Vries or Hendriks and isn't on the 40-man roster.
The bullpen is also starting to take shape, as Alex Burnett, Casey Fien, Josh Roenicke and Rule 5 Draft pick Ryan Pressly are expected to join closer Glen Perkins, Jared Burton and Brian Duensing. Robertson also could make the team if the Twins decide to go with 13 pitchers.
Ryan said the Twins would prefer to carry 12 pitchers, but 13 is not out of the question.
"I think everything being equal, we'd like to start at 12," Ryan said. "But everything is not equal."
• The Twins acquired Minor League outfielder Mike Kvasnicka from the Astros on Monday in exchange for Minor League pitcher Gonzalo Sanudo.
Houston selected Kvasnicka, who played college ball at Minnesota, 33rd overall pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. The 24-year-old hit .232/.275/.413 with 15 homers in 88 games with Class A Lexington last year.
• Right-handers Tim Wood (right rotator cuff strain) and Samuel Deduno (strained groin) remain shut down with their injuries, according to Twins general manager Terry Ryan. Ryan said there is not a timetable for a return for either pitcher yet.
"Unfortunately, the timing is not good for either one of them," Ryan said.