MIN@STL: Gibson fans four, holds Cards to one run

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The competition for the fifth spot in the rotation became a bit clearer for the Twins on Friday, as it's expected to be occupied by either right-hander Kyle Gibson or left-hander Scott Diamond.

Right-hander Samuel Deduno, who was considered the favorite for the fifth spot in the rotation based on his 3.83 ERA in 18 starts last season and his 2.19 ERA in five Grapefruit League appearances, is expected to start the year as a long reliever.

Gibson is now the frontrunner, and gets the start against the Orioles on Tuesday, while Diamond is scheduled to piggyback Gibson in that game. There were early media reports saying Gibson had already won the job, but those were denied by both Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and assistant general manager Rob Antony.

Deduno also remains in that mix in case Gibson or Diamond falter, but given Deduno's propensity for high pitch counts that don't allow him to go deep into games, the Twins like him better in long relief. Diamond, who like Deduno is out of Minor League options, also could head to the bullpen or be placed on waivers if he loses out to Gibson.

"There's a better chance that Deduno will end up in the bullpen," Antony said. "I think he's still in the mix for the rotation. We're going to continue to pitch him stretched out, but we only have a week left to straighten this out so it's going to be more Gibson and Diamond. Deduno is still in the mix, but we feel like he could handle the bullpen better."

Right-hander Vance Worley was originally in that mix, but he was outrighted to Triple-A Rochester on Friday after clearing waivers.

Nolasco shrugs off rough outing against Mets

NYM@MIN: Mets score seven off Nolasco in the first

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It was one of those outings that Ricky Nolasco could only laugh about, and be glad it came during Spring Training and not during the regular season.

Nolasco, making his second-to-last Grapefruit League start to get ready for his Opening Day assignment against the White Sox on March 31, was shelled by the Mets in the Twins' 9-1 loss on Friday at Hammond Stadium. The right-hander gave up seven runs in the first inning on five extra-base hits, including three doubles, a triple and a homer.

Nolasco settled down after the first inning to get through two scoreless innings, but he needed more than 70 pitches to go just three innings after going five innings in his previous outing. He ended up allowing seven runs on six hits and two walks with three strikeouts in his three innings of work.

"I'm right there where I want to be, but obviously in that first inning, I was pretty terrible," Nolasco said. "I think I could've done better if I told them what was coming. So it's just Spring Training, so whatever. I bounced back and threw pretty decent the next two innings."

Nolasco is slated to make one more start this spring against the Pirates on Wednesday in a final tuneup before taking the mound on Opening Day for the third time in his career. Nolasco said the one thing he found solace in on Friday was that he didn't tire during his start, and that his arm feels just fine.

"It was kind of funny toward the end of it, I just kind of sat back and realized I still felt good," Nolasco said. "I wasn't really feeling tired so I feel good about that."

Worley clears waivers, outrighted to Triple-A

Worley on his Grapefruit League start vs. Pirates

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Right-hander Vance Worley, who came into camp competing for the fifth spot in the rotation, cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Rochester on Friday.

Worley, who was out of Minor League options and couldn't be sent to the Minors without clearing waivers, posted a 13.50 ERA in four Grapefruit League appearances, including a rough outing against the Rays on Tuesday night, when he gave up seven runs on 11 hits, including six doubles. He was placed on waivers after his poor outing against the Rays, and cleared Friday afternoon.

His struggles have been a continuation from last year, when Worley started the year as the club's Opening Day starter, but had a 7.21 ERA in 10 starts before being optioned to Triple-A Rochester in late May.

Worley, 26, was originally acquired by the Twins before the 2013 season in a trade that sent Ben Revere to the Phillies. Worley had bone chips removed from his elbow before the '13 campaign and saw his season end in July because of a shoulder strain, but he came into camp healthy and 25 pounds lighter.

But the results haven't been there, and Worley pitched himself out of consideration for the fifth spot in the rotation.

He'll now go to Triple-A Rochester, where he'll likely be part of the rotation there, although Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said there's still a chance he could pitch in relief. The move also opens up a roster spot for the Twins, who now have 39 players on their 40-man roster.

"He has to go down there and get some things straightened out," Antony said. "You never know when you place a player on waivers what's going to happen. Twenty-nine other clubs passed on him so he knows he has to get things straightened before he gets back to the big leagues."

Hicks, Presley still aiming to take center stage

PIT@MIN: Hicks sends one to the boardwalk in fifth

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony didn't mince his words when assessing the center-field competition earlier this week.

Antony expressed disappointment in the performances of Alex Presley and Aaron Hicks, saying Wednesday that neither has stood out this spring.

"Hicks hasn't been anything special this spring; neither has Presley in center field," Antony said. "So there's your center-field battle."

But Hicks responded with his bat since those remarks, going 1-for-2 with a stolen base against the Cardinals on Wednesday and 4-for-4 with a double against the Rays on Thursday to raise his batting average to .375 this spring.

Hicks said he's starting to feel more comfortable from both sides of the plate, and remains an important piece for the Twins, as he possesses the skills to be a plus-defender in center field and has demonstrated he can be a solid leadoff hitter throughout his career in the Minors with a .374 on-base percentage.

"Right now, I'm just trying to have good at-bats and do what I can to get ready for a long season," Hicks said. "I'm just trying to help the team win."

Presley, meanwhile, got the start in center field against the Mets on Friday, but entered the game hitting .161 in 13 games. The Twins have been working with Presley on his stolen base skills, but so far, he's been caught stealing three times in as many attempts.

But Presley is still expected to make the club as a fourth outfielder even if he loses out to Hicks, as Presley is out of Minor League options.