Rogers (finger) to IL, upending trade status

Baldelli talks Maeda's 10th-inning pinch-running heroics

July 28th, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins bullpen ace Taylor Rogers was placed on the 10-day injured list with a sprain to his left middle finger on Tuesday, which could have a potentially significant impact on his place in the series of transactions that should come ahead of Friday's Trade Deadline.

Rogers lasted five pitches against Detroit after he took the mound for the ninth inning of Minnesota's eventual 6-5 win in 10 innings on Monday night before he was pulled after sailing a pitch to the backstop and indicating an issue with his pitching hand.

And after the left-hander underwent imaging and saw a doctor before Tuesday's game, the Twins indicated that Rogers' path forward might not be so simple, with manager Rocco Baldelli saying that the 30-year-old could need up to two additional opinions -- one in the Twin Cities area, and potentially also one out of state -- before the club determines Rogers' next steps.

"We’re going to hold him down," Baldelli said. "He’ll probably get some treatment on his finger, and we’ll figure out if he needs any more imaging. But what we’re really going to do is just allow the doctors to get a good view of what we’re looking at and give us their opinions. We need to find out more before we can say anything for certain."

Rogers reached an 0-2 count on Jeimer Candelario before his third pitch, a sinker, missed high and outside. His fourth pitch, a slider, was well off the mark, high and outside, and his final pitch, another slider, missed by several feet.

"When he lets a slider slip like that, I think every pitcher has done that once or twice before, so I didn’t think anything of it," catcher Mitch Garver said. "You know, could have been sweat, could have been a dry ball, one of those things. When he did it again, things just didn’t look right."

Before the injury, Rogers had been in position to be one of the Twins' most valuable assets at the upcoming Trade Deadline. Considering he will remain under team control through the end of the 2022 season, the Twins are under no obligation to trade the left-hander, especially since president of baseball operations Derek Falvey has indicated that the club hopes to return to contention next season.

On the other hand, the left-handed Rogers has been one of the most consistent relievers in the game across his six-year career, and across the last three seasons in particular. Since 2019, Rogers owns a 3.06 ERA with 173 strikeouts and 23 walks in 129 1/3 innings, and he can claim a career-low 2.11 FIP this season with a sparkling 59 strikeouts and eight walks -- a very attractive proposition in a market relatively low on impact relievers.

There's nothing stopping the Twins from finding a suitor for Rogers' services regardless, but the injury makes that process more difficult -- especially if it proves more serious than initially thought.

Baldelli indicated that Randy Dobnak's middle finger strain likely originated in a similar fashion, and Dobnak is currently on the 60-day injured list -- though the skipper cautioned against drawing too many parallels in the situations until the Twins learn more.

Either way, this will mark the first IL stint of Rogers' Major League career -- and though the timing is certainly tough in terms of his possible trade value, Baldelli said that's not something he's thinking about at this time.

"Frankly, we need to take care of our player, and right now, Rog’s health and us focusing on getting him healthy is all we’re thinking about," Baldelli said.

Maeda pinch-runs, scores walk-off run in Monday's game

If a pitcher is pinch-running in an American League game, something has usually gone wrong -- as was the case earlier this season, when White Sox manager Tony La Russa had closer Liam Hendriks run for himself as the automatic runner in extras instead of using the preceding hitter in the lineup, as is permitted by the rules.

But nothing had gone wrong in the 10th inning of the Twins' win over the Tigers on Monday when Kenta Maeda emerged from the dugout to run at second base; he was the man that Baldelli wanted out there.

"I feel like Kenta [is] a really good athlete and a good runner," Baldelli said. "No disrespect to Mitch [Garver], but I do think Kenta's probably faster than him. And we were going to put the guy out there that ran the best at that point, and he has experience doing it too. So that's kind of how we landed."

It was, in fact, Maeda's fourth career pinch-running appearance, and one that ended in him scoring the walk-off run on Max Kepler's game-ending single, making Maeda the first Twins pitcher to pinch-run and score in a game since Pat Mahomes on Aug. 9, 1994.

The Twins ended up in that position because they used Gilberto Celestino as a pinch-runner for designated hitter Brent Rooker in the bottom of the ninth inning and had to insert Celestino on defense in center field after they used Willians Astudillo as a pinch-hitter for center fielder Nick Gordon. That forfeited the designated hitter, necessitating reliever Caleb Thielbar's placement in the lineup in the No. 6 spot -- which was needed for the automatic runner in the 10th inning.

Though the umpiring crew helpfully reminded Baldelli that he could have gone back one more spot, to No. 5 hitter Garver, as the automatic runner, the Twins' skipper still wanted Maeda in that spot, pinch-running for Thielbar, and it worked out -- though that might be a slippery slope for Maeda.

"When you start inviting that conversation and you start telling Kenta he may run, his first thought is, 'Well, if I can run, maybe you can let me hit too,'" Baldelli said Monday night. "That's kind of what he was aiming for. That wasn't going to be the case tonight."