Taylor Rogers, Nelson Cruz Provide Minnesota Twins Update During Downtime

Mandatory Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

Taylor Rogers says he’s color-coded his closets. Nelson Cruz has been hanging out with his cousins playing dominoes, napping and watching Netflix.

Cruz, a legendary napper in his own right, has taken things to a new level. “More than normal,” Cruz said of his resting routine. “Definitely more than normal. I’m am napping three times a day.”

But that’s the reality of what MLB players are going through in these unusual times as the nation — and really, the world — looks to combat the spread of Coronavirus with social distancing.

Both players have returned home — Rogers to Colorado, Cruz to the Dominican Republic — and made keen observations: that they hadn’t been home at this time of year in quite some time.

“I haven’t been in Colorado at this time of year in almost 11 years,” Rogers said. “I just don’t remember what the weather was like here.” For Cruz, it has been since 2000 that he was in the Dominican Republic at this time of year, though he was there with the Twins taking on the Detroit Tigers in a one-off spring training game that feels like it was an eternity ago.

In fact, it was just 18 days ago.

Of course, the players are still getting their regular baseball workouts in. For the most part, the players are just trying to stay in their routines as much as possible.

“I’ve been doing all my training like I normally do during the offseason or in spring training,” Cruz said in a conference call with the media on Monday afternoon. “I’ve been doing my workouts in the gym and hitting in the cage. Thank God I have my own stuff and my own gym. I’ve been able to stay in shape and at the same time, be safe and stay at home.”

Feb 26, 2020; Fort Myers, Florida, USA; Minnesota Twins designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) runs the bases after hitting a solo home run during the sixth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at CenturyLink Sports Complex. Please Credit: David Dermer-USA TODAY Sports

Rogers has been playing catch with Twins prospect Griffin Jax in the Denver area. “He’s from the same area,” Rogers said of Jax. “So just playing catch with him outside and, for lack of a better term, doing the in-home prison workouts. That’s about it. That’s kind of all we can do.

“Talking to other teammates and stuff, it sounds like everybody’s kind of got the same thing going on, pitcher-wise. Stick to one catch partner at home somewhere, and everybody’s getting in some type of workout. We’re doing what we can, and obviously, we’re just being patient.”

Information can be hard to come by, but that isn’t terribly surprising. COVID-19 has sent more than just sports into a state of chaos, and Rogers and Cruz are just doing their best to stay as informed as possible.

For Rogers, the team’s newly-elected representative with the MLB Players Association, that means staying in contact with the union about what the league might want to do next.

It’s not really a fluid discussion, Rogers said.

“It’s here and there,” Rogers said. “We hear things. For a couple of days we’ll hear some things and then it’ll go silent for a little bit. It’s difficult I think because this is uncharted waters and nobody knows exactly what to do. There’s nothing to draw back on. And at the same time, it’s hard to have discussions when there’s nothing that we’re looking towards meaning like a time table or a start date so it’s difficult to have those discussions when you don’t really have any of those facts in place.

“It’s more so just making sure all the teammates are taking care of, making sure they’re in a good place, that their families are going to be OK. Basically, the well-being of the players is a lot of the discussion.”

Cruz added that the players are in regular communication with each other and manager Rocco Baldelli, mostly just to communicate with how everyone is handling things in these uncertain times.

But the Twins are also being proactive when it comes to the actual illness — which is certainly important in light of what happened with the Utah Jazz and a few other teams in other leagues moving forward.

“We have a COVID-19 task force,” said Twins director of communications Dustin Morse. “Dr. Amy Beacom is kind of our lead physician, and Dr. Christopher Camp is also involved. The players all touch base with Michael Salazar, head athletic trainer, and we can get them information to not only each player, but each staff member and front office member and then we’ll try to go from there.

“As Taylor said, it depends on which state everybody is in. But there certainly is a lot of information almost daily that we’re trying to sift through. Our lead physicians, as well as Salazar, have done a great job of keeping us all updated when there are updates to learn. And then, of course, Taylor communicates what he learns out to the players as well.”

Cruz was candid about whether he’s worried about there not being a 2020 season at all.

“Well, we’re not confident,” Cruz said. “But at the end of the day, we cannot dictate if that will happen or not. The virus will tell us if we can make the season or not. Definitely we’re pushing as hard as we can to make it happen, and definitely we are optimistic that it will happen, that we’ll have a season. We don’t know how many games it will be. It looks like definitely we’ll be playing baseball this year.”

That matters, especially to Cruz, who turns 40 on July 1 and in one way or another, is entering the twilight of his career.

But Cruz said honestly he approaches every day and every game like there won’t be another one — so it isn’t too much of a change.

“Even without the virus, I take baseball like this could be my last game, maybe even my last year,” Cruz said. “So, I have to give everything I have, everything today regardless of how I feel or situations. This is not any different.

“When the moment comes, if it comes, I’ll be ready.”

Rogers provided important perspective, however — these are just baseball games. The greater good of society takes a much higher precedent.

Feb 23, 2020; Fort Myers, Florida, USA; Minnesota Twins relief pitcher Taylor Rogers (55) throws a pitch during the fifth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at CenturyLink Sports Complex. Please Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

“We’re all holding out hope that there will be some type of season this year,” Rogers said. “I don’t think anybody wants to get into that doomsday scenario where there is no season. But if that is the case, we just know that it’s for the greater good. We want people to be healthy. This is bigger than baseball, and if we cannot play baseball because of this, that’s just one we’ll have to take because this is more important than baseball.”

But for now, that means Cruz will play some pickup basketball, hit, work out, hit some more and work out some more.

For Rogers, he’ll remain in isolation from twin brother Tyler, the San Francisco Giants righty who is down in Arizona, and his father Scott. Scott is a firefighter and Taylor can’t be sure who he’s exposed to every day.

In the meantime, the players will send and receive texts from teammates, coaches and other staffers. Rogers will even call some of them — a wrinkle he jokes rankles the moods of his youthful, text-favoring teammates — to break up the monotony a bit.

And the standards and protocol for testing players will remain in place — with the hopes of never needing to use them past early-stage testing.

And if the season ends up moving forward, even in abbreviated fashion with more doubleheaders than usual, Rogers still likes his team’s chances — especially if the team’s pitching depth is going to be tested, and it will.

Especially if you’re talking about the possibility of doing a lot more doubleheaders, it definitely really helps us with our pitching depth,” Rogers said. “And that’s a credit to Derek and Thad and the team we have put together. Honestly, I’m biased toward our team, but we’re really built for any type of season that we’re going to have. If it’s short, long or anything, our team is constructed really, really well. So, I really do feel like our chances are pretty good.”

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