FARGO-The Minnesota Twins signed veteran relievers Fernando Rodney, Addison Reed and Zach Duke this offseason, and Trevor Hildenberger and Taylor Rogers couldn't be happier.
Hildenberger and Rogers, both 27, had solid seasons for the Twins out of the bullpen last year for a team that had a turnaround season.
"I'm pumped about it," said Hildenberger, a right-hander. "I think we added a bonafide closer in Fernando Rodney, and he's got a great changeup, which is my favorite pitch, so I'm going to pick his brain about that."
Rogers, a southpaw, also thinks he can learn from those three veteran arms.
"There's a reason that they're successful, and there's a reason that they're still around," Rogers said. "You look at playoff teams, they have power bullpens, and I think we've got one right now."
Hildenberger and Rogers were part of the Twins Winter Caravan, which made a stop Wednesday night, Jan. 24, at Fargo's Sanctuary Events Center. Team President Dave St. Peter, Hall of Famer and television analyst Bert Blyleven and radio broadcaster Kris Atteberry joined the two relief pitchers.
Minnesota posted an 85-77 record last season, earning a wild card spot for the Major League Baseball playoffs. The Twins lost to the New York Yankees in a wild-card game, ending their season. That was a marked improvement for a team that posted a 59-103 record in 2016.
"That's the beauty of sports, it's the ultimate reality programming. A lot of good things happened in 2017," St. Peter said. "It led us to playing meaningful games deep into the season and, ultimately, into baseball's postseason. Now the challenge is we've got to back it up in '18. We feel good about our team. Our bullpen should be better. We're looking to continue to bolster our starting pitching staff."
The 6-foot-2, 211-pound Hildenberger posted a 3-3 record with a 3.21 ERA in 37 appearances last season, his first in the major leagues. The 6-foot-3, 170-pound Rogers went 7-3 with a 3.07 in 69 appearances a season ago, his second season in the big leagues.
"I think I learned a lot last (season) about being aggressive and not shying away from big league hitters and going right after them and using your tools and your strengths," Hildenberger said.
Rogers said the Twins earning an American League wild-card spot last season is motivation heading into the upcoming season. Minnesota's spring training workouts for pitchers and catchers are scheduled to start on Feb. 14 in Fort Myers, Fla.
"If we get there and do the same thing this year, I think it will be a disappointment," Rogers said of making the wild card. "I think we're aiming our sights higher than that."
Blyleven said adding veteran arms like Rodney, Reed and Duke will help players like Hildenberger and Rogers. Blyleven also likes that the team bolstered its bullpen.
"The game has changed," Blyleven said. "Starting pitchers are required to maybe go five or six innings, so that puts a lot of pressure on a lot of arms out in the bullpen. That's why I think the moves especially have been made in the bullpen area on the pitching side."
St. Peter likes the young core of position players the Twins return, including center fielder Byron Buxton, who was a Gold Glove winner last season. Buxton, 24, also batted .253 last season with 14 doubles, 16 home runs, 51 RBIs and 20 stolen bases in 140 games.
"We're expecting that young, core group of position players to take another step. That's exciting for the team, that's exciting for our fans," St. Peter said. "Byron Buxton is must-see TV. Everyone wants to watch him. He's worth the price of admission. He's a unique player."