So Twins are past the point of no return and are now into discussions of the playoff roster. I am going to leave Morneau out of the discussion, because I don't really expect him to be back this year.
Position Players (14 spots)
There are nine starters that are guaranteed barring injuries.
The candidates for five backup spots are:
Catcher: Morales, Butera
Infield: Punto, Tolbert, Casilla
Not likely: Plouffe, Revere
Starting rotation: (4 spots)
Two starters are set:
The other four are competing for what should be two spots:
Bullpen (7 spots)
Six are set:
Competing for at most one spot along with the two extra starters:
Flores, Perkins, Manship, Bunett
Neshek, Delaney, Slama ( the Twins web site shows the last two no longer on the active roster - but I missed the move if they have been taken off)
The starting lineup is set. I think the nine guys listed will start every game unless something goes seriously haywire. Given that the backups are there as pinch runners, pinch hitters, late defensive replacements and in case of injuries. That makes their role pretty limited. The main roles will be pinch running for Thome and late inning defensive replacement for Kubel. Repko is the only fourth outfielder available so he is set. It seems to me that Butera is the odd man out if the Twins go with five bench players. The backup catcher is not going to play and Morales gives them a switch hitter on the bench. That said, do you really need three utility infielders? I don't know if that makes sense or not. We haven't seen much of Nick Punto recently and he may be the odd man out if the Twins go with 12 pitchers. Tolbert and Casilla have some of his flexibility and both are probably now faster than Punto. Punto's advantage is experience and his defense.
In terms of the starters, I think Duensing has all but locked up one of the spots in the rotation unless something happens over the last couple weeks to change that. I think Baker ought to be the other starter if he is healthy. While Blackburn has done well since returning, he has some experience in the bullpen and his sinker ought to work well there. Even if the Twins go with five starters, I think Slowey is the odd man out.
The ideal thing would be for the Twins to have another lefty in the bullpen who can get lefties out. That would be Flores, but he has not pitched that well. Despite being a lefty, Perkins does not really do that well against left handed hitters. I don't think any of the other candidates for a spot in the bullpen are better than either Blackburn or Slowey. I would go with Blackburn as the seventh guy in the bullpen.
My own take would be to go with five starters and seven relievers, which would put both Slowey and Blackburn on the roster. That means going with four players on the bench - Morales, Repko, Casilla and Tolbert. There are several reasons for that. One is that I don't think the Twins have a "big game" starter on their staff that you would definitely want out there twice in a five game series. Liriano is closest to that, but he hasn't really shown that he can step up under pressure. If Liriano starts game one, he will be available in the bullpen for games three four and five. I don't know that you want to use him that way, but it gives you another option.
Another reason, is I just don't see much of a role for three extra infielders. While they might make a late inning defensive replacement for Hardy or Valentine, I don't think it is really necessary. And that is the only role Punto has.
To be clear, this is what I think the Twins should do. My guess is that Punto will be on the roster and Slowey won't be. Its also possible Gardy will go with three catchers. Butera has been with the team the entire year, removing him for the playoffs is the kind of thing the Twins usually don't do. He may not have much of a role, but he belongs in the dugout. Morales is the only one of the reserves who really fits a pinch hitter role. I think he will be a bat on the bench regardless of the decision about Butera.
Of course, we are still a couple weeks away from having any decisions made. Its possible one of the starters will pitch themselves out of a job. And, of course, Morneau may come back. Or that Hardy's arm will still be sore and the extra infielders will be needed to give him a rest. S I am jumping the gun, but thats what we fans can do. The Twins still need to nail this down and then they have some decisions to make.