Underneath their uniforms on Monday, the Minnesota Twins are wearing tuxedo shirts. It’s not because they want their Jesus to party, as Cal did in Talladega Nights. It’s because they want to send Eddie Rosario to the All-Star Game — a promotion for the outfielder based on The Bachelor.
“There’s guys that get snubbed every year,” said manager Paul Molitor. “But we’re going to do everything we can here as an organization and with our players to try to back this campaign that we’ve got going, and hopefully we get a good result.”
Rosario is one of five players who could be voted in as part of the Final Vote, and he faces stiff competition. Giancarlo Stanton has 21 homers in his first season with the New York Yankees, Andrew Benintendi is hitting .293/.379/.515 with 14 home runs for the Boston Red Sox, and Andrelton Simmons has a .307/.369/.436 line in his third season for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim — three high-profile players on big-market teams.
The fourth guy is Jean Segura, who is hitting .330/.358/.470 for the surprising Seattle Mariners, a likely Wild Card team.
“I feel like I’m in the Final Five because I deserve to be there. The numbers are there,” said Rosario, who is from Puerto Rico, via team translator Elvis Martinez. “But at the same time, it’s difficult, because I’m playing well and I’m deserving to be there.”
“He leads the Twins in almost every offensive category,” said Molitor of Rosario, who leads the Twins in batting average (.301), home runs (18), RBI (53), on-base percentage (.342) and hits (104) this season. “It doesn’t even include what an exciting player he is — what he can do on the bases, what he can do on defense. For me to imagine that there’s ‘X’ amount of players on that All-Star team that are better is almost unfathomable for me.”
Jose Berrios will represent the Twins in the All-Star Game, but it might be hard for Minnesota to have two players voted into the game, given that they are falling out of the AL Central race and likely will miss the postseason this year.
No Twins player has won the Final Vote. Lew Ford (2004), Torii Hunter (2005), Francisco Liriano (2006), Pat Neshek (2007), Delmon Young (2010) and Brian Dozier (2015) were all nominated, and Liriano and Dozier ended up making the All-Star Game as replacements in 2010 and 2015, respectively.
“It’s a little disappointing,” said Rosario, via translation. “Everybody votes for whoever they want to vote for — friends or close teammates — that’s what it is. It’s not in my hands. I know my numbers are there.”
If Rosario makes the All-Star Game, it would be indicative of his ascendance. A 4th-round pick in the 2010 draft, he debuted on May 6th, 2015 and homered off of Oakland Athletics pitcher Scott Kazmir on the first major-league pitch he ever saw. He finished sixth in Rookie of the Year voting and had a breakout season last year when he hit .290/.328/.507 with 27 homers.
“There was never really a lot of debate about Rosie having the ability to hit up here,” said Molitor, who worked in the Twins minor league system before being named manager in 2015. “We all wondered if the free swinging was going to be too frequent to allow him to compile numbers or to get better pitches, not necessarily strikes. I think we started to see he’s not going to be a 50- to 75-walk guy, but he’s going to be able to do some damage.”
In addition to being free-swinging at the plate, Rosario has frequently made perplexing decisions in the field. He’s been known to miss the cutoff man in the outfield and get caught in a rundown on the basepaths. They are typically a result of unbridled ambition, however, rather than mental errors.
“I kind of look it as less than it used to be as far as things that don’t seem to go in sync with making a good decision,” said Molitor. “How many times has he made decisions that have been maybe he’s the only guy on the field who would try it?”
Molitor says the fact that Rosario acknowledges his mistake immediately after coming into the dugout is encouraging. Molitor used to have to explain why he threw the ball to the wrong base or why he got caught in between two bases. Rosario would look at the replay on the scoreboard and say he thought he had a chance to make a play, and Molitor would have to explain why the risk wasn’t worth the reward. Now that’s happening less and less frequently.
“Those were the conversations we used to have. Now he sees how a game works and decisions that back up trying to win, especially when you have a chance to close out games late,” said Molitor. “I’ll take the aggressiveness. I’ll take some of those type plays. We saw, he’s an exciting player and sometimes those guys that put themselves out there in situations other guys don’t — you’re going to have to accept that it’s not always going to work out.”
It all comes down to Rosario’s commitment to being professional for Molitor.
“It was a process but not atypical for a lot of guys that learn how to apply themselves day-in and day-out, not taking days off, understanding how your teammates depend on you and being one of those guys that can be depended upon,” he said.
“Little comments that he makes to me on a daily basis give me an indication that his head is in the game, about situation, about ‘Would this be a good time to bunt?’ The other day he was DHing and he said, ‘You want me to start thinking about going and playing defense the last couple innings?’ He’s just seeing the bigger picture so much better.”
Finding that balance between being an exciting player that stretches a single into a double or throws out an opponent at home is always going to be the key for Rosario. His baseball IQ is starting to catch up with his natural talent.
An All-Star appearance right as he enters his prime would be an indication that he’s starting to figure things out in the major leagues and should be around for years to come.
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