It was the easiest line to fill out on the lineup card each day. Since his first game as a major league manager, Rocco Baldelli has penciled in "Cruz DH" nearly every day, and the only decision was whether to write it on the third or fourth line.
"I did thoroughly enjoy putting Nelson's name in the DH spot for all that time, let's be honest," Baldelli said. "But I do think there will be some benefits [to not having] Nelson Cruz to go to DH on a regular basis."
No, nobody is likely to replace the production of one of the greatest sluggers in Twins history. But before Cruz arrived, the Twins rarely had an everyday designated hitter, with most managers choosing to use the spot as a way to give their regulars a day off from playing defense. Not since David Ortiz served as DH 94 times in 2002 had a player started more than half of the Twins' games in a season in that role; it's happened only 18 times, in fact, in the 50 years since the designated hitter was adopted by the American League in 1973.
"There are many benefits to a club, and to the health of some of the other players, to rotate that spot around. We've seen it done with other teams," Baldelli said. "I've seen it work like that before. There are ways we can take advantage of it. I'm looking forward to it."
In the six days since Cruz was traded to Tampa Bay, Baldelli has started Brent Rooker at DH three times and Josh Donaldson twice, and on Tuesday he made Miguel Sano the DH. Rooker has played left field in the other two games since returning from Class AAA St. Paul, so it's clear the Twins, especially with Alex Kirilloff out for the final two months after wrist surgery, want to give him plenty of at-bats.
Meanwhile, expect nearly every Twins regular to get a day off from defense every so often.
"I'm sure there are a couple of players that would also be looking forward to getting some of those at-bats, to get a guy off his feet but keep him in the lineup," Baldelli said. "There are the Nelson Cruzes and the David Ortizes and the Edgar Martinezes, but there are some very good [other] ways to operate with that spot."
Rogers goes on IL
Taylor Rogers' sprained middle finger on his pitching hand was a "freak occurrence" that occurred on one particular pitch on Monday, Baldelli said, but it quickly became apparent that the injury was a serious one. "It was definitely an [injury list] situation," Baldelli said, so the lefthanded reliever went on the IL for the first time in his career on Tuesday.
Righthander Beau Burrows was recalled from St. Paul to replace Rogers, who will see a specialist, and perhaps more than one, to gather more opinions on how to proceed.
"Rog isn't going to be throwing until we learn more. We're going to hold him down," Baldelli said. "He'll probably get some treatment on his finger and we'll figure out if he needs any more imaging, but what we're really going to do is just allow the doctors to get a good view of what we're looking at."
Rogers, named to the AL All-Star team two weeks ago, has been prominently mentioned in trade rumors ahead of Friday's deadline, and it's unclear how the injury affects any discussions with other teams. Certainly, the Twins want to gather as much medical information as possible to allay the concerns of any potential bidders.
Catching in the heat
Game time temperature Tuesday was 91 degrees, and it's expected to be even hotter Wednesday afternoon, when the Twins and Tigers wrap up the series with a 12:10 p.m. game.
It's not an easy assignment for a catcher, laden with gear and crouching behind the plate, but Ryan Jeffers, who is most likely to be in the lineup after Mitch Garver played Tuesday, says the perspiration can be as bad as the heat. So a wardrobe change is a catcher's best friend.
"After the fourth inning Sunday, I went back to the clubhouse and stripped down. Changed everything — socks, shoes, my long sliders, undershirt, jersey, everything," Jeffers said. "It really helped just to feel dry again."