"I think we have something to prove," Twins left-hander Scott Diamond said. "Just being around the clubhouse the last week or so, I've seen an extra fire. I don't know if it's just from my position, but it really feels like something is starting to click."
The Twins are reporting earlier than usual this year, as the World Baseball Classic returns this spring. Seven players invited to big league camp are expected to play in the Classic, including Joe Mauer and Glen Perkins (USA), Justin Morneau (Canada) and Drew Butera (Italy).
Just like last season, the Twins are reporting 13 days before their first scheduled Spring Training game. They open their Grapefruit League schedule against the Orioles in Sarasota, Fla., at 12:05 p.m. CT on Feb. 23, more than a week earlier than last year.
The Twins are scheduled to have their usual 10 days of workouts, with the last few days used for review and to go over anything that needs to be addressed before Grapefruit League play begins.
Of the 43 pitchers and catchers reporting, 16 are non-roster invitees (12 pitchers and four catchers).
Notable among the 16 pitchers are right-handers Rich Harden, Alex Meyer, Anthony Slama, Samuel Deduno, P.J. Walters, Luis Perdomo, Esmerling Vasquez and Deolis Guerra. Deduno, Walters and Vasquez all made starts with the Twins last season. Right-hander Nick Blackburn was also invited, but he won't be available to pitch after undergoing surgery on his wrist in mid-January.
The non-roster catchers are prospects Danny Lehmann, Dan Rohlfing and Kyle Knudson, and former Pirates backstop Eric Fryer.
All together, the Twins invited 66 players to camp, including six non-roster infielders and four non-roster outfielders. Some non-roster players to watch are infielders Jeff Clement and Mark Sobolewski, as well as outfielders Brian Dinkelman, Brandon Boggs and Wilkin Ramirez.
The talk of camp is expected to be about the rotation, as the Twins added Vance Worley through the trade that sent Ben Revere to Philadelphia while also signing veterans Mike Pelfrey and Kevin Correia.
Worley, Pelfrey and Correia are expected to join Diamond in the rotation, with the fifth spot up for grabs. Prospect Kyle Gibson could claim that spot, but he'll be monitored closely, as he's coming off Tommy John surgery.
"We went out and got some guys," Perkins said. "Last year, we came in with a lot of the same guys from the year before. We were hoping guys were healthy and all that but we kind of showed up with the same team after losing 99 games. So it's not like we didn't try, but it didn't work out. But this year we've got new starters and some guys in the bullpen, but mainly the guys in the rotation are going to compete and give us a chance every day. And that's what we needed after last year."
Other position battles will take place in the middle infield and in center field after the trades of Revere and Denard Span.
Dozier, Carroll, Pedro Florimon and Eduardo Escobar are all in the mix in the middle infield, with Florimon the favorite at shortstop and Dozier the favorite at second base. Nothing is set in stone, however, and the Twins will reward the players who fare best this spring.
For the center-field job, Mastroianni will compete with prospects Hicks and Benson. Mastroianni has a leg up because of his big league experience last year, but Hicks is regarded as one of baseball's top prospects, and he could make the jump straight from Double-A New Britain to the Majors.
There will also be competition in the bullpen, even though the club already has a top closer in Perkins and a top setup man in Jared Burton. Brian Duensing, Casey Fien and Alex Burnett are heavy favorites to make the bullpen after making an impression last season.
Anthony Swarzak is also in that mix, but he injured his ribs in non-baseball activity on Jan. 25 and is expected to be out a month. Other relievers to watch include Rule 5 Draft pick Ryan Pressly, Tim Wood, Josh Roenicke, Tyler Robertson and Slama.
It should all make for a very interesting Spring Training for the Twins, who open the regular season at Target Field on April 1 against the Tigers.