Notes: Rosario looks to draw more walks in '20

Wisler turning heads in camp; Sanó continues first-base work

February 27th, 2020

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Last month, at TwinsFest in Minneapolis, sat on a couch next to teammates as he did a radio interview and generated some laughs -- and an incredulous response from host Dick Bremer -- when he said with a wry smile that he wanted to focus on taking more walks during the 2020 season.

On Thursday, Rosario insisted that he wasn't just making a joke. He means it.

"That's a real focus," Rosario said. "That's real."

Why was that such a funny idea for the fans in attendance? Because Rosario has become notorious for his uber-aggressive plate approach over his five seasons with the Twins. Rosario has a knack for homering on pitches many other hitters wouldn't dream of swinging at, and his 59.1 percent swing rate last season (and 43.1 percent chase rate) led all Twins regulars.

That swing rate was fourth-highest in the Majors among hitters that saw at least 1,000 pitches last season. The result? He had middling exit velocity and hard-hit metrics because he was often making contact on bad pitches. His 3.7 percent walk rate (22 walks in 590 plate appearances) was fifth-lowest among qualified Major League hitters.

Though Rosario set a career-high with 32 homers last season and hit .276, his lack of selectivity at the plate limited his on-base percentage to .300. That gave him an .800 OPS and 106 OPS+, meaning he only provided six percent more offensive production than a league-average hitter.

Rosario seems to understand the limitations in that -- now, more than ever.

"Every bad number? I want to try to get better at it," Rosario said. "Defense, walks, OPS, those are the numbers in the game right now that are bad for me. OK. I want to try to change that. That's it."

Rosario, like many others on this roster, maintained that his goal this year is to win the World Series, and he understands that his personal improvement at the plate, even at this stage in his career, is a part of that push.

"I love being aggressive, but I love to try to help the team," Rosario said. "My focus? I want to try to be better."

So far, so good for Wisler
Thus far this spring, right-hander has certainly earned the inside track he appears to have for one of the final two spots in Minnesota's bullpen, throwing two scoreless innings. But the 27-year-old right-hander, who signed a $725,000 guaranteed Major League deal in December, didn't necessarily expect to be here.

"I was kind of surprised," Wisler said. "I didn't finish up very well last year in Seattle. I thought I'd pitched decently well for most of the season. I had a couple of bad months in there and a couple of bad appearances that really killed my numbers, but I was definitely pleasantly surprised to see that I got picked up by a playoff team."

Wisler brings to the Twins a career 5.20 ERA in 129 appearances over five seasons, but the coaching staff has indicated that they feel they can improve the efficacy of his wipeout slider, which generated a 40.8 percent whiff rate last season. The right-hander says the gist of the improvement will be in throwing his fastball with more conviction.

Of course, the Twins likely also have a few other tweaks -- mechanical, pitch usage and otherwise -- that they're keeping under the hood.

"The fact that I threw [the fastball] 25 percent [of the time] last year is not good," Wisler said. "So I'd like to be more aggressive with it early, late in counts and kind of set up my slider. That way, when I get to 0-2 or something like that, they haven't seen two sliders. They've seen one slider and I can throw a good one after that."

Wisler has recorded four strikeouts in Grapefruit League play this spring and also punched out a pair in the Twins' exhibition win over the University of Minnesota. The guaranteed contract and Wisler's being out of Minor League options appear to be positive factors towards him breaking camp with the team. His pitching has only backed it up.

Odds and ends
• Byron Buxton hit batting practice in the cages Thursday, watched by his son, Brixton, and Twins legends Tony Oliva and Rod Carew. Torii Hunter threw batting practice to the Twins' center fielder and fielded friendly verbal jabs from Oliva and Carew when he was unable to consistently throw the ball over the plate.

• Miguel Sanó continued his intense work at first base with a handful of coaches as he practiced fielding grounders and making throws to second base. He and Nelson Cruz took turns taking fungoes and flipping the ball to Jorge Polanco and Rosario, who helped them with the exercises on one of the infield setups at the Twins' complex.

Cruz has done the first-base drills alongside Sanó at several points this offseason but reiterated Thursday he's just staying on his feet and keeping Sanó company.

Up next
Two significant projected regulars are set to make their spring debuts Friday for the Twins in their 12:05 p.m. CT matchup against the Red Sox at Hammond Stadium. Right-hander Homer Bailey, projected to be the club's No. 4 starter, will make his first appearance as a member of the team. Outfielder Max Kepler is also expected to play for the first time after he was slightly slow to ramp up while dealing with mild back soreness early in camp.