Notes: Durbin refocuses in 2006

Notes: Durbin refocuses for 2006 season

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Cleaning with a dust cloth in his hand isn't exactly how many would imagine pitcher J.D. Durbin spending his time after practice.

But that's just what the 23-year-old pitcher has found himself doing some afternoons this Spring Training. As a roommate of Joe Mauer's, Durbin has been trying to adjust to the laidback lifestyle of the Twins catcher and it hasn't been easy.

"I clean his house and stuff because I can't sit there and do nothing," Durbin said with a laugh. "Really it's been just a focus thing for me. Being with Joe has humbled me a little bit and kept me in tune with what I'm doing. It's helped me out quite a bit."

Focus has been a necessity for Durbin as he enters another season without having yet reached the goals that many had set for him -- or, for that matter, his own goals. Just a year ago, Durbin was mentioned as one of the top candidates to fill the No. 5 role in the Twins' rotation. Now, as the spot is once again up for grabs, Durbin's name is surprisingly absent from rotation talk.

Though it's Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano getting all the consideration for the fifth spot now, Durbin isn't frustrated by the lack of attention coming his way.

"My name may not come up, but I'm still in there," Durbin said. "Even if not for the starting job, then for the bullpen."

Part of the reason behind Durbin's slow progression is a string of injuries. Surgery during the 2004 season on a torn right labrum in his throwing shoulder caused the pitcher to miss over a month of action. Then in 2005, recurring shoulder problems forced Durbin to miss another month of the season. The vocal pitcher knows that injuries often can't be prevented, but he feels like he didn't help the process, either.

"It's kind of to my own accord, not maintaining myself better," Durbin said. "I'd do stuff for my shoulder until it felt better and then quit. Now I'm doing it more religiously and hopefully it works out better."

The pressure is on Durbin to produce better this season as he has only one option left with the Twins. He's hoping the Twins' lack of arms due to the World Baseball Classic will allow him to display just how much progress he's made. Exactly what the Twins are hoping to see from the young pitcher during camp is pretty clear.

"He's just got to learn to control everything a little better," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He did a lot better last year, they told me, but he had the arm injury and it's just got to keep improving. He has a chance to be a great pitcher in this organization, whether it is as a starter or a 'pen guy. We haven't really decided. He will dictate that."

The one thing that the Twins won't have to worry about is Durbin's confidence.

"I'll turn some heads again sometime," Durbin said. "It might not be right away, but I'll get back to the way I used to throw and be comfortable with it and get talked about a little more."

Just put me in coach: With three veteran pitchers in camp to compete for the left-handed spot in the Twins' bullpen, not much has been mentioned of some other southpaw pitchers on the team's 40-man roster.

Lefty Dave Gassner finds himself in that spot. Though his name hasn't been brought up frequently, the pitcher clearly has an interest in doing anything and everything to make it to the big leagues.

"I'll take bat boy if they want me to, whatever it takes," Gassner laughed. "If there is a bullpen spot, I'll take it."

Gassner's history as a command and control pitcher doesn't exactly fit the mold of a situational lefty, but the pitcher believes that he has what it takes to fill whatever role is open.

"Of course, I'd rather be a starter because that's what I've always done, but my goal in life is not to pitch in Triple-A but to pitch in the big leagues," Gassner said. "If that's the role that's open, then I think that's the role I can fill."

Lost and found: The last of the Twins pitchers and catchers have made it to camp.

A search party had been placed to find pitcher Jose Mijares on Tuesday after he didn't report on time. The cause for his delay was a slight bit of miscommunication between the club and Mijares.

A road closing near Mijares' house in Caracas, Venezuela, caused the pitcher to miss his flight to Florida. The 21-year-old Mijares didn't call the club after the missed flight, leading to confusion.

Mijares finally made it to Fort Myers on Wednesday afternoon and is expected to join the club during Thursday's workout.

Down to one: One thing Gardenhire understood when he took over as manager of the Twins in 2002 was that the Twins would have a high turnover rate.

With a low payroll and consistent budget constraints, keeping players is a difficult task for the Twins. But just how few players would be remaining on his roster after four years of managing was something that even Gardenhire had no clue would occur.

Torii Hunter, Johan Santana, Brad Radke and Kyle Lohse are the only four players currently on the Twins roster who started the year in 2002 with the first-year manager.

"It did hit me this year after Jacque [Jones] signed [with the Cubs] that I've got Torii as the last guy of position players left from when I started managing," Gardenhire said. "Four years and only one position player -- that's amazing."

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.