FORT MYERS, FLA. – The Twins held a dinner for some of their most influential corporate sponsors this week as part of spring training festivities.
The organization invited a number of players to attend and mingle with executives. That list included 23-year-old prospect Eddie Rosario, who sat at a table with employees of a prominent company.
That’s not a meaningless tidbit that should be glossed over without context.
Rosario’s inclusion in that function reflected the organization’s hope and belief that Rosario’s career is back on track and that he’s serious about his second chance after serving a 50-game suspension last season after a second positive test for drugs.
One member of the organization called the dinner another step in Rosario’s maturation, partly because he’s still learning to speak English but more because he seems determined to make things right.
Rosario’s goal of making the Twins’ Opening Day roster ended Saturday when he was sent down to Class AAA Rochester. The move was not surprising: Rosario needs to play every day to continue his development, and he’s simply not ready for a starting job in the majors yet.
The Twins also optioned center fielder Aaron Hicks to Rochester, and while Hicks’ future with the organization looks tenuous, Rosario made a positive impression this spring to rebuild some faith and trust in him.
“This is my second opportunity,” he said. “It’s my world, my life, and I’ve tried to change. It was difficult for everybody, but I’ve got another opportunity. I work hard in the offseason, and when I come back here I try to let everybody see me again.”
His talent is easy to spot. It’s his actions and his attitude that will shape his future with the organization.
Rosario missed the first 50 games last season after testing positive for a “drug of abuse,” according to the league office. He told the Star Tribune last April that he smoked marijuana during the Arizona Fall League.
Rosario is considered one of the Twins’ top prospects, often included in the group of fast climbers at the center of the organization’s rebuilding plans.
Rosario can play second base or any outfield position. He’s fast, and he has quick hands and some power as a lefthanded hitter.
He still needs minor league seasoning as a hitter. He batted just .233 with nine strikeouts and no walks in 17 spring training games. He did hit two home runs with seven RBI.
He’ll be fine. The kid can hit, and his major league debut likely will happen sometime this season.
The team and Rosario feel encouraged again because he faced a drug suspension this time last year. He made a mistake, a youthful mistake but a dumb mistake nonetheless. He lost valuable time in his development and undoubtedly created some uneasiness inside the organization about his priorities.
This spring was critical for him in terms of re-establishing himself as a promising talent who will work hard and do what’s asked and expected of him.
“He made a mistake, it’s as simple as that,” General Manager Terry Ryan said. “He’s paid his penalty. Like a lot of players, if you make a mistake, you have to be accountable. He’s done what he needed to do.”
Rosario fell behind last season and never found solid footing. He hit only .237 in Class AA New Britain. Ryan called Rosario’s 2014 season “suspect,” which is not the term anyone wants to use for a top prospect.
“He was always catching up,” Ryan said. “That’s a bad situation to put yourself in. He’s in good standing [now].”
Rosario can’t afford another slip-up. A third failed drug test would result in a 100-game suspension and would give the organization every reason to move on.
The team is encouraged by his attitude.
“I think he has a good understanding of some changes he needed to make in his approach,” manager Paul Molitor said. “I have no criticism of what’s happened here this spring. He’s played well, he’s asked the right questions, he’s gone about his business fine. He’s definitely moving the way we had hoped and certainly the way he’s capable of.”
Ideally, that becomes the postscript to this story. People make mistakes. It’s what they do with their second chance that defines them. Hopefully, Rosario continues to embrace that because it would be a shame to waste his talent.