"Those sliders that he is throwing are unhittable," Gardenhire said. "Guys are swinging and missing by a foot on those sliders, some pretty good hitters. When he throws it good, that slider is really snapping."Liriano has said this spring that he'd prefer to stay in a starting role, but after his start against the Rays on Saturday, he seemed to ease on that stance slightly. "I'm just ready for anything," Liriano said. "If I have to close, I'll close, but they haven't told me [about changing roles]." Rauch has the most big league closing experience on the team. The right-hander has 26 career saves in 44 attempts. Most of those came in 2008, when he went 17-for-22 in save opportunities with a 2.98 ERA for the Nationals before being dealt to the D-backs. While Guerrier might not necessarily have the ideal stuff of a closer, some close to the team have mentioned the right-hander's makeup in terms of his heart and guts on the mound as a reason why he might be successful in the role. Mijares and Crain have both been used in late-inning situations. The Twins' front office has also been scouring the market for possible options. Minnesota has already been linked to Jason Frasor and Heath Bell in trade rumors. But the market appears to be relatively thin on relievers with closing potential and with the Twins' need for a closer known throughout the league, it might be costly to try to acquire someone at this time. Smith said the team will weigh all of the factors before making a decision on whether to go outside the organization for help. "We're going to try to make the right decision," Smith said. "Obviously we're going to weigh what we'd have to give up in any trade as we do all year round. But let's look at what's available." The Twins' GM also indicated that whoever starts the season in the closer role might not be the same person who finishes it. "Nothing has to be set for the entire season on April 5," Smith said. For now, Gardenhire will focus on his internal candidates. He has said previously that it's not possible to develop a closer during Spring Training, so for the time being, they'll let all of their pitchers prepare for the season as normal. And Gardenhire said that before they make a decision on a pitcher -- or perhaps two -- to fill the role, he wants to talk with some of his options about their thoughts on it. "We know that probably everybody out there would say, 'Yes' if we said, 'You're the closer,'" Gardenhire said. "But what if that guy is not really comfortable doing it? We'll give it a little more time here, get the arms where we want them to be, see how it goes through the next time through [the rotation] and then we're going to make a decision on who is going to be in the 'pen and who is going to be in the rotation. We'll talk to a couple guys."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less