Classic gives prospects playing time

Classic gives prospects big opportunity

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The World Baseball Classic may hit the Twins hard this spring, but that isn't necessarily bad news.

At least 15 players from the organization will be leaving to play in the Classic, creating some concerns about shortages at Major League camp. The flip side, however, is that some of the younger players in the organization will get extra playing time in Grapefruit League games.

Seven of the Twins participating in the Classic were on the team's active roster as of Aug. 31, 2005, but the area of most concern has been pitching. Starters Johan Santana and Carlos Silva, closer Joe Nathan and reliever Jesse Crain all have been named to the final rosters of their respective countries. The need for pitchers has been growing since Francisco Liriano was added to the Dominican Republic's team, which meant that three of the Twins' likely regular-season starters would be missing from camp.

A total of four pitchers have been added to the Twins' camp for this reason, which should give the team enough arms to last until some of the players return. These additions weren't expected, but for many pitchers it's the chance to join Major League camp and get some extra experience. One of the players is the Twins' 2005 first-round draft pick, right-hander Matt Garza, who had already arrived in Fort Myers to train and had only to cross the parking lot for his first Major League workout.

"Garza's a prime example of someone who can benefit from this, because he wouldn't even be here if we weren't losing so many pitchers," Twins general manager Terry Ryan said. "So it's a chance for these guys to get some exposure to the Major League staff that they normally wouldn't have gotten, so hopefully they take advantage of that."

On the move: A strong Arizona Fall League has once again put first baseman Garrett Jones on the Twins' radar. Jones finished his stint with a .289 average, nine home runs and 30 RBIs, earning him All-Star status in the AFL. Jones will have another shot to show what he can do, as his playing time will likely increase this spring -- Justin Morneau will be absent for several games to play for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic.

Names in the game: The Twins are known for bringing back big names to their camp, but with full-squad workouts starting only on Saturday, many of them didn't arrive until this weekend. Among the former players joining camp this year are Rod Carew, Tony Oliva, Terry Steinbach, Paul Molitor and Harmon Killebrew.

They're No. 1: Outfielder Denard Span is one of four Twins former first-round draft picks who is present in Major League camp. The 20th overall draft pick of the 2002 draft, Span has been limited in his action so far due to a tender shoulder, but has been able to participate in outfield drills and has been throwing lightly.

Class of '05: Garza is the only member of the '05 draft class in Major League camp, but a few other Twins draft selections have made the early trek to Fort Myers to train.

One of those is Tobey Gardenhire, son of the Twins skipper. Gardenhire, a shortstop, played last season for short-season Class A Elizabethton, where he hit .200 with five RBIs in 30 games.

What they're saying: "It hasn't affected me since I still have my own locker, but it has been interesting to see so many players crammed into one clubhouse." -- Minor League pitcher Justin Jones, on the team having to share some lockers due to having 63 players at camp.

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