The Twins recalled outfielder/designated hitter Brent Rooker on Friday, filling the roster spot opened up by the Nelson Cruz departure.
Rooker had a brief stint with Twins in April, but he logged just 29 at-bats before being sent down to Triple A on April 28. Rooker has since hit .239 with 19 home runs and 48 runs batted in in 61 games with the St. Paul Saints.
But while he takes Cruz’s roster spot, Rooker isn’t looking to fill his shoes.
“If I come in with the goal of replacing Nelson, I’m setting myself up for failure. He’s a top five hitter in the game, as good of a guy, as good of a leader, as good of a veteran presence in the clubhouse as you can possibly have,” he said. “I’m just coming in to hopefully be the best version of myself that I can be.”
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said Rooker will get run at both corner outfield spots as well as in the designated hitter role. Improving in the field has been a key point for Rooker, whose bat has never been the question. Baldelli said the team saw steady improvement in the field from Rooker during his time in Triple A, and Rooker reinforced that, saying he has been working to become a better all-around defender.
“The more he’s on his feet, the more he pushes himself pregame to do at game speed, the better outfielder he’s going to become. We’ve seen growth there, and we want to see more of it,” Baldelli said.
Where Rooker will contribute the most is at the plate. His 19 home runs with the Saints were tied for the Triple A East lead.
“I’m very happy with where my swing is, and I’m hoping it’s going to continue to produce here,” he said. Rooker has batted .188 in his 48 career MLB at-bats.
Bigger role for Sano
With Cruz gone, Baldelli said it’s going to be a team-wide effort to replace his production on the field and his leadership in the clubhouse. He sees Miguel Sano fitting in in both aspects.
“Even when (Sano) has struggled he has still been a good presence in our clubhouse. He has led in a lot of ways and willing to do anything for this team that we’ve asked him to do, even when his role was changed,” Baldelli said. “His role is changing again.”
Baldelli expects more opportunities for Sano at first base and third base, a spot he has played sparingly this season.
“We’re going to look to him to find himself, get back out there, and get back to the production that he’s used to and he demands of himself.”
Luis Arraez went through batting practice on Friday as he nurses a right knee injury he sustained on Tuesday. Baldelli called it a good sign and one that could keep him off the injury list. However, the real test will be when he can run again.
“More than anything, it’s going to be when he’s able to sprint and when’s going to be able to be on his feet, change directions and run the way he’s going to need to run if we’re going to put him in a game. That’s going to tell us more,” Baldelli said.
Alex Kiriloff underwent surgery on his right wrist on Friday, and Baldelli said it went “very well.” Baldelli stuck to a rough timeline of eight weeks for his return when asked. But he said the exact timeline doesn’t matter, as it will hold Kiriloff out for the rest of the season regardless.
“We do want him to have a full healthy offseason, and that’s the goal, so he can go into spring training full speed.”