Yes, Taylor Rogers had two rough games in the past week — losing leads to the Athletics and Yankees when he had two outs and no runners on in the ninth inning. But the simple fact is that Rogers has been the best arm in the Twins bullpen and one of the best in baseball.
Rogers, who entered Thursday 2-2 with 15 saves and a 2.27 ERA, struck out 59 batters in 47⅔ innings and had given up only five home runs on the season.
More impressively, for a club that has had issues finding reliable arms in the bullpen, Rogers has six saves of two innings or more and eight saves that have required at least four outs.
The Twins drafted the University of Kentucky product in the 11th round of the 2012 draft, and Rogers said that he wants to be the closer every chance he gets.
“Obviously the adrenaline is a little bit different in that type of inning, but having your teammates count on you is a nice feeling and being in that position is rewarding,” the 28-year-old said. “But you’re also, sometimes when it doesn’t go well, it’s all on you and it’s all your fault. It’s interesting and I really enjoy it.”
Rogers’ recent blown saves were only his second and third of the season. But there’s no question the Twins are going to have to keep leaning on him.
He ranked 12th among AL relief pitchers for innings pitched and leads the Twins in that category. On top of that, Rogers ranked 10th in the AL in reliever ERA among those who have thrown at least 30 innings.
Does he have any issue throwing for more than one inning in a save situation?
“The game obviously dictates that,” Rogers said. “Sometimes you’re forced to do that, go multiple innings. We have had some talks with [manager] Rocco [Baldelli] and we kind of see how they’ve used [relievers] Andrew Miller or Josh Hader, those guys that go multiple innings. Just try to look at their track record and how they were used and see if they actually hit a wall or were overused at some point. We have been keeping an eye on it. But sometimes the game dictates that and you have to do what you have to do.”
New coaches help
This is the first season Rogers has worked with assistant pitching coach Jeremy Hefner, who is in his first year as a coach after serving as a scout in the past. Rogers talked about the difference between Hefner and Eddie Guardado, the former Twins bullpen coach.
“Jeremy Hefner is really great. He is different than Eddie, obviously, personality-wise. Not many people compare to Eddie, personality-wise,” Rogers said. “But he really knows his stuff. He was our kind of scouting report guy behind the scenes the last couple of years.
“A lot of us are familiar with him, and he’s familiar with us. He’s really, really good at putting together some scouting reports or plans that you can go out and execute and feel good about. He’s a good person, he can translate through some of [pitching coach Wes Johnson’s] stuff. When Wes starts talking about biomechanics and reposados and stuff, I can go to him and get the elementary school version of what he meant.”
Rogers started 87 games in the minors before becoming a reliever, and he said that move was made easy when Terry Ryan, then the Twins general manager, gave him a choice in 2016.
“For me personally it was going into spring training, Terry Ryan said, ‘Hey look, if you want to be a starter you can be at Triple-A, or if you want to go for the bullpen, you can have a shot at being in the big leagues,’” Rogers said. “For a guy who hadn’t been in the big leagues, that’s a pretty easy decision.”
Rogers has a twin brother, Tyler, who has been a dominant minor league reliever with the San Francisco Giants. In his career, Tyler has a 2.52 ERA over seven seasons, but has yet to get his call-up to the majors.
“We try to talk a lot,” Taylor said. “Time changes have been difficult lately. They’re out in Sacramento so time changes are a little different. But it’s nice to have a best friend that is in the game, somebody I can talk to, and a lot of times it’s just a vent session and I have to complain about the game, because it can make you crazy, and he can do the same. “
Hamline grad umps
If you want a unique story out of baseball, look no further than Clint Fagan, a Mitchell Hamline law student who just so happens to be a major league umpire.
Fagan, who has been a full-time umpire since 2014, takes part in a new law school program that is part online and part on-campus, which is the only way Fagan could do that kind of program while also umpiring.
“The baseball season starts with spring training and I’m not done until October,” Fagan told Twins Magazine. “I couldn’t go to a traditional law school program.”
Twins, Yanks deals
In the Yankees’ two victories at Target Field this week, former Twins center fielder Aaron Hicks went 4-for-10 with two homers, four RBI and four runs and made the game-saving catch Tuesday.
His dominant performance brought to mind how often the Twins and Yankees have been trade partners over the years.
A 1982 trade of Roy Smalley brought the Twins a young Greg Gagne, who went on to start at shortstop for their two World Series teams, as well as closer Ron Davis. Chuck Knoblauch was sent to New York in 1998 in a deal that brought over Cristian Guzman and Eric Milton, who both went on to become All-Stars for the Twins.
More recently, the teams have been frequent trade partners — the teams have completed six trades since the start of 2014.
The most notable of those trades has to be the November 2015 deal that sent Hicks to New York for catcher John Ryan Murphy. Hicks, the No. 14 overall pick in the 2008 draft, was a source of frequent frustration for the Twins but has emerged into a solid everyday player for New York when healthy, while Murphy played only 26 games with the Twins in 2016 before being sent to the minors and subsequently dealt the following year to Arizona for reliever Gabriel Moya.
But other trades between the teams have not been as lopsided. In April 2014 the Twins dealt Miguel Sulbaran to New York for Eduardo Nunez, who had been designated for assignment. Nunez became an All-Star for the Twins two years later.
In July 2017, the Twins dealt Jaime Garcia after only one start to New York for pitchers Dietrich Enns and Zack Littell. Enns is no longer with the Twins, but Littell has impressed some this year and figures to be back from the minor leagues soon.
The 2018 spring training trade of Luis Gil for Jake Cave got little attention at the time, but Cave ended up having a solid rookie season and like Littell has split time in 2019 between the Twins and Class AAA Rochester.