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– Anibal Sanchez’s three-week career with the Twins came to an end Sunday morning, a couple of hours before he was supposed to face the Rays. As Sanchez gathered his equipment for the one-hour bus ride to Charlotte Sports Park, manager Paul Molitor called the veteran righthander into his office to tell him that the Twins were releasing him instead.

“That was a tough one,” Molitor said of the meeting. “I can’t say he got a very large opportunity in the short time he was with us.”

The reason had nothing to do with how Sanchez pitched this spring, General Manager Thad Levine said. It was about the Twins’ increasingly crowded roster, and particularly the impending signing of free-agent righthander Lance Lynn. The Twins needed Sanchez’s roster spot, but the bigger issue was that they could no longer deliver the innings they promised him when he signed.

“When we signed him, we did not have Jake Odorizzi, and we did not have something else in the pipeline,” said Levine, referring to Lynn without confirming his arrival. “So really, the opportunity for real innings was dwindling. … We had represented an opportunity that was no longer there for him, so we wanted to give him every opportunity to get another chance with another big league team.”

Sanchez pitched four innings in Grapefruit League play: two hitless innings vs. Boston on Feb. 27 followed by a six-run, five-hit outing vs. Pittsburgh on March 4.

By releasing him Sunday, the Twins owe Sanchez one-sixth of his nonguaranteed $2.5 million contract, or $417,000. Had they waited until Monday, the termination pay would have risen to $625,000.

Mauer bats leadoff

Joe Mauer batted leadoff Sunday for the first time this spring, but it wasn’t really a signal that the first baseman might bat atop the order much this season, Molitor said.

“There’s going to be times, maybe, whatever the circumstances might be — a day off for somebody or an injury — where he’s always an option for that spot,” Molitor said of Mauer, who batted first only three times last year, and eight times in 2016.

Mostly, Molitor said, Mauer batted first to make sure he batted three times before the customary mass substitution in the fifth inning.

“I want to build his at-bats as intelligently as I can, so he got on the bus today, got up here and got three good at-bats,” Molitor said. “… His timing’s good, he’s feeling good, so I’m just trying to monitor and keep him on schedule the last two weeks.”

Etc.

• Infielder Ehire Adrianza is recovering from a strained right calf that has kept him out of action since Tuesday. “He tried to play through it for a few days without saying anything,” Molitor said. “But he’s doing well.” Adrianza could be back in the lineup Monday, he said.

• Logan Morrison’s strained right gluteus muscle is improved, too, and Molitor expects to have him in the lineup Tuesday.

• The tendinitis in Eddie Rosario’s right arm hasn’t subsided as quickly as the Twins had hoped, and the team canceled a throwing session for him. Molitor said he might use him as a designated hitter in order to get him at-bats before he’s ready to return to left field.

• Erick Aybar had some rib cage soreness that kept him out of action for a few days, but he played shortstop on Sunday and collected two hits.

Up next

Phil Hughes returns to the spring camp where his career began — Steinbrenner Field in Tampa — to face the Yankees.

PHIL MILLER