Prospect Benson among Twins' latest round of cuts

Prospect Benson among Twins' latest round of cuts

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The starting center-fielder competition is down to two, as the Twins made another round of roster cuts on Friday, including outfielder Joe Benson, who was optioned to Triple-A Rochester.

Left-hander Pedro Hernandez was also optioned to Triple-A Rochester, while right-hander Luis Perdomo and infielder Deibinson Romero were reassigned to Minor League camp.

Benson was in the competition to be the club's starting center fielder, but he was passed over for Aaron Hicks and Darin Mastroianni, who are both having impressive springs.

"We think highly of him, but now it's time for him to get some regular playing time," Twins general manager Terry Ryan said. "He was out a lot last year. The best thing I thought about Joe was that his effort when he was out there was that he played the game as hard as you could imagine. So after last year, that's what I was hoping for -- that he'd be healthy and would compete for the spot."

Hicks, who leads the Twins in hits, homers, runs and RBIs in Grapefruit League play, is the favorite in center field, but Mastroianni is still in the mix, as he's hitting .429 with five doubles and seven stolen bases in 13 games. The Twins have yet to officially name a starter in center field.

"We're not anointing anybody right now," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "But I think we've all seen with our eyes that Hicksie can do this. But we believe Mastri can do this right now. He can do some things. So we'll let you know as we go along here who is going to be the starter."

Benson, ranked as the club's No. 13 overall prospect, showed flashes this spring, but ultimately hit .151/.286/.283 with two doubles, a homer, a triple and 15 strikeouts in 18 games. He also made two errors in the field.

The move was made to get him more at-bats in Triple-A, as he played in just 76 games last year because of injuries to his hamate bone and left knee that required surgery.

"He needs to fine-tune about every area of his game," Ryan said. "He's about as athletic as any player we've got. He can run balls down, he's got a good arm, he can steal a base, he can hit a ball a long way, so now it's just about fine-tuning."

Hernandez, who was acquired in the trade that sent Francisco Liriano to the White Sox last year, had a solid Spring Training, as he tossed 11 scoreless innings with six strikeouts and just one walk.

"I thought Hernandez had a good spring," Ryan said. "We're going to stretch him out down there. He can come back as either a starter or a reliever. He ultimately came in here and had a pretty good camp. I was pleased. He started to respond to some of the reports we got from scouts that recommended him, so that was good."

Perdomo, a non-roster invitee after posting a 3.18 ERA in 17 innings with the Twins last year, had a 3.86 ERA with nine strikeouts and two walks in seven innings this spring.

Romero, meanwhile, never made it to camp, as he is still in his native Dominican Republic because of a visa issue that the Twins say is not his fault.

"That's just a paper move," Ryan said. "When he does come, he'll report to the Minor League side."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.