Minnesota Twins

Why Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford would have enjoyed Giants' rare trip

Why Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford would have enjoyed Giants' rare trip

As you tick the weeks off the calendar, you occasionally cross off what would have been a very intriguing stretch for the 2020 Giants. 

That first road trip of the season had the potential to be fascinating, with the Giants opening at Dodger Stadium and then facing Madison Bumgarner's Diamondbacks in Phoenix. This last homestand would have been a big one. The reigning champs would have come to town, and after dealing with the Washington Nationals, Gabe Kapler would have spent three days facing the Philadelphia Phillies team that fired him last year. 

This weekend would have been an interesting one, too, but not because of matchups. Sure, Tyler Rogers could have pitched against his twin brother, Taylor, but the latest round of cancelations is more about the ballparks. The Giants haven't visited Cleveland in a dozen years and they haven't been to Minnesota in 15 years, a lifetime in Major League Baseball. That road trip was supposed to start today. 

Think of it this way. The last time the Giants visited the Twins -- at the Metrodome in June of 2005 -- their starting pitchers were Noah Lowry, Jesse Foppert and Brett Tomko. They scored 25 runs while taking two of three, with Ray Durham and Omar Vizquel going deep. In the last game of that series, the Giants won 14-7 with an outfield of Adam Shabala, Jason Ellison and Michael Tucker. 

Yeah, it's been a long, long time since the Giants have visited Minnesota. 

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

That's a quirk of interleague play, which rotates so that the Giants play every American League Division once every three years, but don't play home-and-home series. Before last year's series -- which notably included former Oriole Mike Yastrzemski -- the Giants hadn't played at Camden Yards in 15 years. 

This interleague trip would have been a fun one even for veterans like Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford, who could have crossed two more parks off their list. The Giants haven't been to Cleveland since 2008, when Barry Zito, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez led a series win at what was then known as Jacobs Field. 

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The Indians have come to San Francisco for each of the last three interleague matchups, losing eight of nine at Oracle Park. While the teams see each other often in the spring, it's unlikely they'll match up anytime soon. When the game returns, it will do so with a new and shortened schedule, and any interleague action should be limited to regional games -- the A's, Angels, Mariners, etc. -- to limit travel. 

In the meantime, you still can get a glimpse of the Giants "playing" in Cleveland. Tonight's PlayStation simulation on NBC Sports Bay Area is the Giants-Indians game that would have been played tonight. A digital version of Jeff Samardzija will take the mound at 7 p.m. for the PlayStation Giants, who have proven to be surprisingly plucky. After a rough start to the simulated year, they're 16-15. 

How Giants' Tyler Rogers nearly became firefighter before MLB call-up

How Giants' Tyler Rogers nearly became firefighter before MLB call-up

Tyler Rogers had a 2.37 ERA in 2017, allowing just two homers in his first full season in Triple-A. The Giants prospect did not receive a call up to the big leagues that September. 

Rogers was even better the next season, lowering his ERA to 2.13 and raising his strikeout rate from 5.1 to 8.0 per 9 innings. When it came time to promote minor leaguers, Rogers was once again sent home.

Triple-A teammates quietly started to grumble that month. During informal conversations with reporters, they often would bring up Rogers, pointing out how unfair it was that he had not been given an opportunity, especially given the state of the Giants' roster. The chorus grew louder the next spring when Rogers again was nowhere near the big league roster competition, and he was asked about often as last season's call-up date approached. 

Then 28 years old, Rogers tried to ignore the possibility that he could be left out a third consecutive year. He put his focus on the field, but just in case, he started to prepare for life after baseball. Maybe he was just never going to get that opportunity. Maybe the Giants were always going to prioritize the low velocity of his fastball over the fact that few could actually square it up.

"It's funny, I was going to give myself to Sept. 1 before I got grumpy about the fact that maybe this wasn't in the cards for me," he said on this week's Giants Insider Podcast. "I was giving it four more days. I bought a book to prepare to test for fire departments. That was always my childhood dream, was to become a firefighter.

"There's firefighting in my family. I originally went to junior college to be a firefighter, so I was starting to dive back into those textbooks and get ready to test for fire departments that next coming month. I bought the book and the next day I got called up. I was like, 'I should've bought this book a lot earlier.' "

Rogers then went out and did exactly what his longtime minor league teammates had anticipated. He had a dominant September and followed that up with a strong spring.

There's a new coaching staff in place now, one fascinated by what Rogers can do with his submarine delivery and the different ways they can make him a unique weapon. It doesn't seem a coincidence that Rogers has been the closer in both "Out of the Park Baseball" simulations of one-run games Gabe Kapler has posted to Twitter this month. The new manager has high hopes for Rogers. 

"I think Rogers would be a really interesting guy to open up a game and go through five, six, seven batters left and right," Kapler told KNBR's "Tolbert, Krueger, & Brooks" earlier this month. "And I also think he would be an interesting candidate to shut down a couple of right-handed and left-handed hitters in a row. I think whenever you're thinking about a guy who can close down a baseball game and a guy who can open a baseball game, you don't want them to be specialists, right?"

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That's a role Rogers is preparing for by throwing bullpen sessions into a net he bought on Amazon shortly after the sport was shut down. Whenever baseball resumes, he'll be in a big league bullpen, not a firehouse. But the latter actually might be where Rogers feels most comfortable. 

The Rogers twins grew up in firehouses. If Tyler had cracked open that book and gone that path, he would have become a fifth-generation firefighter, which would be the longest run in the country. 

Every man on that side of the family is a firefighter except for Tyler and Taylor -- both of whom are now big league relievers -- and they're not taking that responsibility lightly. The Rogers Family Foundation raises money and awareness for firefighters dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder in Colorado, where they grew up, and Minneapolis, where Taylor is the closer for the Minnesota Twins. 

"My most fond memories are when my dad was working on Thanksgiving or Christmas and we got to go to the firehouse," Tyler Rogers said. "The kids were climbing on the trucks and stuff. The tone would go off and they'd have to go on a call. We'd watch the trucks pull out of the bays with sirens on and everything and we thought that was so cool, but once we got older we realized all we saw was the cool sirens and stuff leaving the bay. 

"When they're going to a call where someone could be hurt or (there are) car wrecks or stuff like that -- me and Tay started realizing, 'Wow, I don't know how they can compartmentalize these things.' They may see a dead body and then they come back on Christmas and their whole family is at the fire station."

[RELATED: MLB discussing plan to return in late June]

The appreciation for what his family members have done has grown as Rogers has gotten older, and the last few weeks have been particularly eye-opening. That station he grew up at is facing a new kind of threat. Some of the firefighters who work with Rogers' dad have tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19) after being called to help others.

"You think about, okay, now he can't see his family for two weeks because he was helping other families," Rogers said. "That's really what it means to be a first responder or doctor or firefighter."

Why Giants' Tyler Rogers gave ball from MLB debut to twin brother

Why Giants' Tyler Rogers gave ball from MLB debut to twin brother

For three years, Tyler Rogers had a plan. He had been the first one to receive the news that his twin brother, Taylor, had been promoted to the big leagues by the Minnesota Twins, and Tyler knew that he would return the favor, calling Taylor right away if the Giants ever called him up. 

The Rogers family got to experience the second call late last August, and on the night Tyler finally made a well-deserved MLB debut, Taylor locked down one of his 30 saves for the Twins. He was stoic afterward while discussing the performance, but the emotion was clear in his voice as he discussed developments halfway across the country. 

"He deserves it," Taylor said of Tyler, his voice cracking. 

As Tyler discussed that day on this week's Giants Insider Podcast, he felt his own emotions. He explained how he did something pretty cool in the offseason to show his brother his appreciation. 

"That was very emotional," Tyler said. "The Giants do such a great job with your first pitch. They give you a nice little case and it's labeled, your first pitch with the date and everything. I got back to Colorado for the offseason and I gave that first pitch (ball) to my brother because I knew how much it meant to him ... man, I'm getting choked up talking about it, too. That was really cool. Once I got that ball I knew I wanted Taylor to have it."

Tyler was proud to follow his brother's footsteps, although the two took very different paths. Taylor, a hard-throwing left-hander, has been up since 2016. Tyler, a submarining right-hander, had to wait for his shot despite putting up dominant numbers in the minors. After 179 games in Triple-A, Tyler got the call in August and allowed just two earned runs in 17 2/3 innings. He carried that over to the spring, pitching so well that the new staff started thinking of him in a late-innings role. 

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The Giants were supposed to visit the Twins' new stadium for the first time next month, and there's little doubt that Tyler would have made the trip. He would have been on the opposite side as his twin, a fun change of pace after years of keeping tabs from afar. 

[RELATED: Giants' Hunter Bishop roasts brother Braden]

"Getting to watch him every day is really special for me, and I get way more nervous watching him pitch than when I'm pitching," Tyler said. "I get the sweaty palms and everything going on."

For more from Tyler on that relationship, his long road to the big leagues, how close he came to giving up the game, and how he's dealing with this layoff, you can stream the Giants Insider Podcast here or download it on iTunes here.