The Twins made a slew of roster moves on Friday afternoon, bringing in reinforcements ahead of their weekend series with the American League Central-leading Kansas City Royals.
The Twins reinstated Max Kepler and Kyle Garlick from the COVID-19 injured list, called up catcher Ben Rortvedt from the alternate site, optioned both outfielder Brent Rooker and catcher Ryan Jeffers and designated infielder Tzu-Wei Lin for assignment. Additionally, they activated infielder JT Riddle from the COVID-19 list and also designated him for assignment.
“To get these guys back is a big pick-me-up for us,” manager Rocco Baldelli said of Kepler and Garlick, who both tested positive for COVID-19 while the team was in California. “… It’s very tough on these guys to just sit on the sidelines and watch everything going on.”
While bringing Kepler and Garlick back into the fold should have the biggest impact on the roster, the demotion of the 23-year-old Jeffers is the most surprising of the moves.
Jeffers made a strong first impression upon being called up last season, but has hit just .147 with a .216 on base-percentage and .176 slugging percentage in 11 games this season. Baldelli said the move would be a good opportunity for Jeffers to go get locked in at the plate and get some consistent at-bats while also refining some defensive parts of his game.
Jeffers, on Sunday, said he was “just a tick late on things,” at the plate.
“In the big leagues you only get one or two pitches an AB to really hit and right now, I’m just a hair late on those. Like the ball that I normally would crush, I’m just either just missing that. It’s not really anything I’m super worried about,” Jeffers said. “ … It’s just trying to get that timing down just a tick earlier.”
He also said trying to find a routine that worked for him when he was only playing 50 percent of the time was a big area of focus and admitted that that had made it “a little bit harder to fall into that rhythm, to get that timing down.”
“It’s a little bit more challenging to get into that consistent daily rhythm when you’re not quite sure, day to day, what your schedule look like,” Jeffers said. “But you know that’s part of what we have to deal with this year, what we get to deal with this year. You know it’s just trying to find that daily routine, what kind of works for works for us, when we’re not in the lineup.”
For now, he’ll head down to the alternate where he’ll work find that timing while Rortvedt, the Twins’ No. 28 prospect per MLB Pipeline, takes his spot on the roster.
Rortvedt, noted as a good blocker and receiver, was the Twins’ 2016 second-round pick. He has not played above Double-A as the 2019 minor league season was wiped out. A Wisconsin-native, Rortvedt had plenty of supporters in attendance on Friday night for his debut.
“A lot of my friends actually live in Minnesota now, so some of them will be at the game,” Rortvedt said. “And then some family is also traveling here to make the road trip this morning. It’s pretty cool that they’re close enough to drive right out.”