Brent Rooker remembers Deron Johnson, then the Twins’ West Coast scouting supervisor, talking to him a year ago at the summer Cape Cod League about signing with the club. The Twins had drafted Rooker in the 38th round that year.
Rooker declined the offer.
“It was a better move for me to go back to school,” he said.
You think? Rooker batted .329 with 11 home runs and 54 RBI for Mississippi State last season. This year, he’s close to becoming the first Bulldogs player to win the SEC triple crown since Rafael Palmeiro. He batted .387 with 23 homers and 82 RBI. And the Twins were back at the table after selecting him with the 35th overall pick in Monday’s draft.
This time, Rooker wore a big grin as he signed a contract that included a $1.9 million bonus, which is the approximate pick value suggested by the league.
“I could not be more excited about it,” he said. “Just the opportunity to join this great organization.”
Rooker, 22, will begin his pro career at rookie league Elizabethton for a couple of weeks to orientate himself to the Twins Way. He then could be moved to Class A Fort Myers.
The plan is for Rooker, who played first base at Mississippi State, to play in left field. He was 18-for-23 in stolen base attempts, so he can move. But he wants to prove he can be a reliable defensive player, too.
“The game can be impacted in so many ways,” he said.
But it’s clear that the Twins drafted him for his bat.
“We feel like he’s going to play 3-hole,” current scouting director Sean Johnson joked on draft day. “That’s what we’re hoping he plays. If he hits, we’ll find a spot up here.”
The Twins are expected to have a deal in place on Saturday for first-round pick Royce Lewis, a shortstop from JSerra High in San Juan Capistrano, Calif. Lewis’ bonus is expected to be between $6.5 million and $7 million.
Santiago to bullpen?
Lefthander Hector Santiago is working to get over shoulder soreness and return to the rotation. But the Twins might have something else in mind when he returns.
Twins manager Paul Molitor hinted before Friday’s game that Santiago could be shifted to a bullpen role upon his return from the disabled list.
Santiago, 29, has made 128 starts in his career, including 12 this season. But he has also worked out of the bullpen 59 times, including once this season, during the 15-inning game against Tampa Bay on May 28.
Santiago threw in the bullpen Thursday, went to massage therapy on Friday and is scheduled to throw in the bullpen Saturday. Molitor would like Santiago to face hitters, possibly as part of a minor league rehabilitation assignment, before he is activated from the disabled list.
“In my opinion, that would probably be good for him to do that,” Molitor said. “Whether we’re preparing him to get back in the rotation, or other things we might consider.”
Santiago started the season 4-1 with a 2.76 ERA, but in his past six appearances, including that two-homer relief appearance, he is 0-5 with a 9.93 ERA. In addition to not throwing enough strikes, he has been unable to get a feel for his changeup, which he needs to be effective against lefthanded hitters. Lefties are 20-for-40 with six home runs against him.
• The Twins will announce a couple of roster moves on Saturday before the first game of the doubleheader.
One will be the call-up of righthander Alan Busenitz from Class AAA Rochester. Busenitz, 26, is 2-0 with a 2.15 ERA for the Red Wings. In 29⅓ innings, he has walked nine and struck out 32. He came over with Santiago in exchange for Ricky Nolasco and Alex Meyer last season.
• Molitor said he got a good laugh Friday morning when he read Chris Gimenez’s quote about the Cleveland Indians. Gimenez said they needed to “punch them in the mouth.” “I think it is a little tongue in cheek, knowing he spent a little time over there,” Molitor said. “I don’t think Cleveland is a team that needs much external motivation.”
• Indians outfielder Michael Brantley will miss the series to be with his wife as she gives birth to their third child. Righthander Adam Plutko replaced Brantley on the roster.