Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Contemplating Taylor Rogers

Nothing in bullpens is ever set in stone, but it appears Taylor Rogers has somehow found himself back in the eighth-inning role he held for a goodly chunk of 2017.

Everything in his stat line says he's best suited for a lefty specialist role. But Paul Molitor isn't particularly inclined to use any pitcher in the manner that Ron Gardenhire used Dennys Reyes about a decade ago. Reyes thrived as a true LOOGY, and Rogers might also, but it's not easy to limit one bullpen arm that strictly if the starters are only getting about 15 outs.

Rogers had 30 holds in 2017 -- holds being an unofficial stat that count the save opportunity leads handed off to the next reliever. He has seven so far this year. This tells us more about how Rogers has been used than about the quality of his pitching. Molitor trusted Rogers with late leads much more frequently in 2017 than in 2018.

Part of that was the offseason additions of veterans Zach Duke and Addison Reed, who were initally Molitor's preferred setup men this year. But now Duke is gone (as is Ryan Pressly) and Reed's role after his first-ever stint on the disabled list is uncertain. Rogers and Tyler Hildenberger appear to be the primary options for the seventh and eighth innings.

Hildenberger's role has been relatively stable. Rogers' has not. For a while, he was frequently the first man out of the bullpen. His ERA at the end of April was 8.44, and whle ERA is an imperfect yardstick for relievers, it's difficult to brush off one in the mid-eights.

But Rogers has only been charged with runs in seven of his last 36 appearance. His 2018 ERA is down to 4.03 -- still almost a run higher than his 2017 mark, but less than half what it was entering May.

The Twins bullpen isn't as deep as they need it to be. In a truly deep bullpen, Rogers wouldn't be the primary eighth-inning guy. But he would have a role.

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