The Twins seemingly entered spring training with the intention of giving 25-year-old right-hander J.D. Durbin every opportunity to make the big-league club. "The Real Deal" is out of options, meaning that if he doesn't make the team, the Twins will be forced to waive him and almost undoubtedly lose him to another team without compensation.
Sadly, Durbin has done nothing to earn a spot on the team this spring. After giving up four earned runs on five hits and a walk in one inning of work against the Orioles yesterday, Durbin now holds a ghastly 12.38 ERA to go along with a 2.63 WHIP over seven appearances.
I think most Twins fans were pulling for Durbin. A second-round selection in the 2000 draft, he became a highly rated prospect after cruising through the lower levels of the minor leagues, but he struggled in a couple stints at Triple-A in 2004 and 2005. Last year, when he finally seemed to find his own at Rochester, posting a 2.33 ERA through his first 16 starts, he suffered an elbow injury that ended his season and reportedly continues to bother him now.
Despite his live arm and good stuff, Durbin's lingering injury concerns and lack of command make it tough to justify giving him a roster spot, and I suspect that's something the Twins are feeling. A player simply needs to do more to earn a spot on a major-league roster than being out of options, and really that's all Durbin has going for him at this point. I'll be sorry to see a guy with Durbin's potential go, especially when he'd be failing to make the roster in favor of a bum like Carlos Silva, but unfortunately I'm starting to think it's the way things will go down.
If the Twins decide not to keep Durbin, they have two options: they can either try and trade him before the start of the season, or -- as I mentioned above -- they can expose him to waivers. I have to imagine that Durbin's trade value is extremely low at this point. In fact, I have to wonder whether any team would be willing to part with anything of value for him knowing that he'll be probably be hitting waivers soon. Simply put, if the Twins attempt to deal Durbin, they won't have much leverage.
Now we come to this question: if Durbin does not make the team, who will claim that 25th spot on the roster? I continue to believe that the Twins will go north with 12 pitchers, so I do believe it will be a member of the bullpen. Mike Venafro seems like a natural option, as he has yet to allow a run in 10 innings of work this spring and Ron Gardenhire has expressed a desire to bring an additional lefty to complement Dennys Reyes in the 'pen. Gardy has also entertained the notion of bringing Matt Garza north as a long reliever, in an effort to stretch him out and eventually insert him into the rotation (somewhat similar to Francisco Liriano last year). Garza has pitched well this spring, but has not pitched more than three innings in a game, so it's tough to see him starting the season in the Twins' rotation. However, I'd rather see him begin the season starting games in Rochester than working out of the Twins' bullpen.
With six days remaining before the season opener, Gardenhire and the rest of his staff will probably be making some major roster decisions within the next few days. It will be very interesting to see what happens with Durbin and that 25th spot on the roster.