THE ROGERS TWINS: SOCIAL DISTANCING IN STEREO
By Jerry Crasnick
Taylor Rogers arrived in spring training fresh off a 30-save season and looking to take the next step in his professional advancement with the Minnesota Twins. Two months later, he’s back in his native Colorado, filling the void by playing catch with Twins’ minor leaguer Griffin Jax and trying to strike the right balance between pushing too hard and slacking off in his training. “I’m trying to keep it at a medium boil,’’ he said.
His identical twin Tyler, emboldened by 17 appearances and a 1.02 ERA in August and September, arrived at San Francisco Giants’ camp with a goal of establishing himself as a big leaguer at age 29. He’s still in Arizona, throwing 50 feet into a net that he recently bought online. And he is admittedly “sick of doing air squats.’’
Boredom and apprehension are part of the daily mix for the Rogers brothers as they await updates on the 2020 MLB season amid a global pandemic. As they practice social distancing in stereo, it’s comforting to know that a best friend and mirror image are only a FaceTime session away.
“He’ll call and ask what I’m doing and I’ll say ‘nothing.’ Then I ask him and he says ‘nothing,’’’ Tyler said. “Fifty minutes later, we’re still on the phone. Whenever he calls, my fiancée just goes off and does something, because she knows I won’t be talking to her for the next hour.’’
The Rogers brothers are the 10th set of twins in MLB history, and the first to play in tandem since Damon Minor appeared in 19 games for San Francisco and his brother Ryan logged 95 at-bats with the Montreal Expos in 2001. The most acclaimed twins in the group are Jose and Ozzie Canseco, who combined for 462 career homers -- all by Jose.
If baseball hadn’t beckoned, the Rogers brothers were destined for a lifetime of public service. Their father, Scott, is deputy chief of operations for West Metro Fire Rescue in Lakewood, Colo. His brother Mike is a firefighter, and three generations of Rogers men before them also worked in the profession. In 2018 the brothers started the Rogers Family Foundation, dedicated to helping the mental wellness of firefighters in Colorado and the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. https://www.rogers55.org/
Taylor, older by 30 seconds, took the more direct route to the majors. He was an 11th round pick out of the University of Kentucky in 2012 and reached the big leagues three years later. Last season, he struck out 90 batters in 69 innings with a repertoire consisting of a 95 mph fastball, a slider and the occasional curve from the left side.
Tyler, a right-hander, overcame more obstacles in his quest. He studied fire science at Garden City Community College in Kansas and played for Austin Peay University before the Giants selected him in the 10th round of the 2013 draft. At the suggestion of a junior college coach, he dropped down in his delivery from the right side in Chad Bradford-Brad Ziegler mode and quickly carved out a new identity. With his 82 mph fastball and 73 mph slider, he’s a classic groundball inducer.
Even when time zones separate them, the Rogers brothers are bound by a twin-fueled telepathy. Taylor was closing out a 3-1 victory over the White Sox on August 27 last season when he sensed something momentous might be happening in San Francisco. He returned to the clubhouse in time to watch Tyler pitch a scoreless inning against Arizona in his big-league debut. The Giants preserved Tyler’s first-pitch ball in a glass case, and he gave it to his brother as a souvenir.
“Most of the baseballs I’ve thrown in my life have been to him,’’ Tyler said. “I was a senior sign in my seventh year in the minors and I had no money last year, and I went to live with him. He’s supported me through all the times like that. I just felt like he should have it.’’
Ask the twins for an off-field scouting report, and they’ll talk about their fondness for the Denver Broncos and golf, their similar taste in trucks and their preference for Bud Light over Coors Light. When Taylor went shopping for a house during the offseason, he took Tyler along for the ride and they found their tastes in architecture and design were simpatico.
“I’m a little more serious and by the book,’’ Taylor said. “He’s more happy-go-lucky. It’s kind of funny. As good a friends as we are -- and as close as we are -- we’d probably get in some fights if we were quarantined together. It’s probably best we’re separated at the moment.’’
If not for the Covid-19 shutdown, the brothers would have met up during a scheduled Twins-Giants series at Target Field from May 4-6. Tyler had already begun hatching a plan to make a sign to welcome his brother to the bullpen when Taylor walked out from the home dugout in the middle innings.
Now they’re looking for novel ways to fill the hours. Taylor recently held a Zoom session with some area high school kids whose workout facility was closed because of the coronavirus. Tyler, a 13 handicapper, has been getting in some golf while the courses in Arizona remain open to the public.
Amid the professional and personal uncertainty, one big date stands out on their 2020 schedule: Tyler is scheduled to get married in November in Arizona.
“He asked me to be his best man,’’ Taylor said. “I told him, ‘I’ll think about it.’’’