FORT MYERS, Fla.—The Twins don't like to point fingers or assign fault, but they suspect they know who is at least partly to blame for third baseman Deibinson Romero's regression at high Class A Fort Myers last season:
Elated by the development of a plus hitter at a position that's been a problem throughout their system, the Twins placed the Dominican native signed in 2004 on their 40-man roster one winter ago. They even invited him to big league camp, then watched as he crumbled under the heightened expectations to the worst hitting season of his pro career.
"That may have been our fault—we may have pushed him too early," vice president for player personnel Mike Radcliff said. "We've talked about this internally, about whether we put too much pressure on him.
"We've had a hard time developing third basemen, and he fit the profile very well, with a high-level bat."
Minnesota is willing to discount Romero's slippage because they feel that coming off a broken leg the summer before, the 23-year-old was too concerned with trying to live up to his roster status. He batted just .225/.311/.319 in 417 at-bats for the Miracle, and he struck out 102 times in 118 games.
"Those numbers really stare you in the face," Radcliff said. But the Twins still project him as a major league-caliber third baseman.
"He's got a cannon arm, easily plus. And he's got nice lateral range, particularly to his left," Radcliff said of the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Romero, who was dropped from the 40-man roster in November and likely will begin this season at Fort Myers again.
"He's not going to be a big power guy, but we still see a lot of upside in that bat. We want to give him time to show it. We'll be patient."
They already have seen what impatience produces.
• The Twins lost outfielder Jason Pridie, who appeared in 11 games for the Twins over the past two seasons, on a waiver claim to the Mets. They needed his roster spot to sign free agent Orlando Hudson. Pridie, 27, batted .265/.295/.382 for Triple-A Rochester last season.
• German outfielder Max Kepler, 17, received his GED certificate in January, clearing the way for him to play baseball full time. Kepler's parents had made his education a condition of his contract, and Kepler even had enrolled at South Fort Myers High, across the street from the Twins' spring complex.