Baldelli talks managing Rogers' 2-inning saves

Buxton undergoes testing; Schoop out of lineup again

July 19th, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS -- In two of his last three appearances, Twins relief ace entered in the eighth inning of a close game, saw his team add some insurance runs in the next half-inning and was left in the game to finish out the ninth inning of a game with more of a cushion.

So what goes into the decision to leave Rogers in for a second frame, especially when he has been one of the most valuable bullpen arms in the American League and the Twins figure to rely on him heavily down the stretch and in the postseason?

"You can make an argument that if we score a few runs, that we want to get somebody else up there," Baldelli said. "You also know that with [Rogers] being a pretty dominant bullpen guy, you don't have the option of ever going back to him in the game if the circumstances change. So you'd better feel confident if you're going to have him in a game and then take him out of the game."

For his part, Rogers found it hard to say whether he felt any different than he normally would as a result of his changed usage, which has seen him pitch less frequently out of the bullpen, but in lengthier stints -- somewhat akin to how the Brewers have used Josh Hader. Rogers didn't necessarily sense any more strain on his arm.

It is a rather unique usage, especially where the Twins are involved. Rogers has recorded six saves of at least two innings this season, the most by any Minnesota pitcher since Jeff Reardon had seven such saves in 1987.

"Knowing that [Rogers] can recover and can go out there the day after going two innings -- we're not going to do it every time, but he's capable of doing it," Baldelli said.

Rogers enters Friday's game leading Twins relievers in innings this season with 44 2/3, but he has appeared in five fewer games than Ryne Harper, who leads the club with 41 appearances. It hasn't necessarily been an extravagant usage when compared to others around the league, as his innings count currently ranks 28th among Major League relievers.

Rogers also noted that he threw 200 innings as a starter in the Minor Leagues in 2015, his final full-time season in the Minors before his callup to the Majors, between the Arizona Fall League and the regular season. He felt he had a fairly resilient arm back then, too, as then-Triple-A manager Mike Quade would sometimes allow his starters would get up to around 115 pitches depending on the situation.

"I'm just going out there when they tell me to go out there and stopping when they tell me to stop," Rogers said. "Just try to keep my head down and not overthink it. Overthinking puts yourself in a bad spot. So yeah, really, yesterday, I knew I was going to go two. So I'm trying to just revert back to the starter days and get through two innings."

It's tough for Rogers to know where he would draw a line on his usage, but he has full faith in the decision-making process of Baldelli and Minnesota's coaching staff. To best inform themselves, the Twins have started tracking the number of pitches thrown in bullpen sessions and the times when their relievers have gotten warmed up and not entered the game this season.

Baldelli said that there aren't any plans for now to let Rogers go beyond two-plus innings out of the bullpen, while Rogers remarked that he might draw a line at three straight days out of the bullpen, though he wasn't completely sure.

"I don't think we're prepared to ask them to do anything like that right now," Baldelli said. "But with a guy with that kind of ability, he makes you want to ask different questions because he's that good."

Injury updates

• Byron Buxton (concussion-like symptoms) underwent testing at Target Field on Thursday that "went well," according to Baldelli, and Buxton is expected to spend most of Friday to recover from the activity. He is expected to participate in baseball activity over the weekend as the Twins continue to evaluate his condition.

• Jonathan Schoop (mild abdominal strain) was out of the starting lineup for a second straight game but was expected to participate in swinging, ground balls and other on-field activity before Friday's game. Baldelli didn't think Schoop would need a stint on the injured list but expected to have a firmer commitment by the end of Friday.