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As Spring Training nears its conclusion, the Twins still need to settle a pair of positional battles in the outfield and on the end of their bench. Three candidates for those openings loudly restated their cases for inclusion on the “Bomba Squad” as part of Minnesota’s power show in a 12-7 win over the Orioles on Sunday.

The Twins’ offense has slumbered for much of Grapefruit League play, but the lineup broke out with six homers, including Custom Minnesota Twins Jerseys blasts from Kyle Garlick, Willians Astudillo and JT Riddle, who could all be in the mix for the final few spots on the 26-man roster.

Garlick’s two-run blast in a seven-run third inning was his team-leading fourth homer of Spring Training as he battles Brent Rooker and Alex Kirilloff for inclusion in a crowded outfield picture. The Twins valued Garlick’s bat to the point where they put in multiple waiver claims for him this offseason — landing him on the second one — and the club feels he can do particular damage against left-handed pitching.

Baldelli on Polanco, Garlick
Mar 22, 2021 · 3:08
Baldelli on Polanco, Garlick
But will that be enough to push Garlick past Kirilloff, ranked as the club’s No. 2 prospect by MLB Pipeline, or Rooker (No. 13), for a roster spot? The Twins don’t really take Spring Training results at face value when it comes to these decisions, but they’re confident that whatever happens, he’ll see plenty of action in the Majors this season.

“It’s not just that he’s getting these hits and hitting some balls over the fence,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He’s actually had really good at-bats, putting really good swings on the ball. He’s impacting those. He’s actually hitting the ball really, really hard when he hits it. He’s had a great spring.”

Astudillo likely has an edge for that 26th spot on the roster due to his extreme versatility, and he has ramped up his outfield action this week, making him a particularly appealing option considering Minnesota will open the season in a National League ballpark against Milwaukee with limited roster flexibility due to Nelson Cruz’s presence on the 26-man.

It certainly doesn’t hurt Astudillo’s case that he’s 9-for-25 (.360) this spring with a pair of homers, including his three-run blast in the third inning on Sunday.

Willians Astudillo’s 3-run homer
Mar 22, 2021 · 0:22
Willians Astudillo’s 3-run homer
Happ takes next step

J.A. Happ still needs a reminder sometimes that he can’t hold himself to the same performance expectations as he would at this point in a normal Spring Training buildup. That’s doubly the case when his outing ends as it did against the Orioles, with a four-run third inning that included a pair of singles, two RBI doubles, an error and an RBI groundout.

“You’re trying to not get too frustrated about maybe that last inning in particular or execution,” Happ said. “I think I’ve just got to realize that hopefully that will come. It’s just about the focus and the side work, and then the focus out there.”

It’s more significant that Happ ramped up to 49 pitches across those three innings in his second start of the spring following a late arrival due to a positive COVID-19 test. The lefty had originally hoped to be one of the Twins’ first pitchers on the mound this spring to give himself more wiggle room in his buildup, as he normally likes to taper off his pitch count towards the end of camp.

Instead, Happ will have to go full steam ahead in his buildup and he hopes to be ramped up to 70-75 pitches before Opening Day, which he hopes will set him up directly for his first start of the regular season, likely at the back end of the rotation.

The Twins have expressed optimism throughout the process that Happ will be ready to shoulder the workload, but executive vice president and chief baseball officer Derek Falvey mentioned on Sunday that the club could consider a tandem starter to pitch behind Happ. Lewis Thorpe has entered in relief of Happ in the last two turns around the rotation and could be a candidate for that slot, if needed.

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