Rogers twins give SF Giants bullpen a different look
Pop. Pop. Pop.
The neighbors kept telling Scott Rogers of these sounds, practically every afternoon, that rang down the dirt road that separated the family home from the rest of its suburban Colorado setting.
Little did they know, they were listening to the origins of two future major leaguers. Brothers born 30 seconds apart, catch partners for life, this is where Tyler and Taylor Rogers got their start. Tossing a baseball 100 yards back and forth on that unpaved road.
Pop. Pop. Pop.
Last year, the twins achieved a lifelong dream: They played catch on a major-league field for the first time. Now, they’re living out a reality that once seemed unimaginable: paired up in the Giants’ bullpen. But while they are identical in looks, their paths to reuniting in San Francisco couldn’t be more different.
“Not that Taylor didn’t work, but Tyler’s always had the tough road,” says their dad, Scott. “We talk about how Tyler’s always had the tough road.”
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Pulling on a pair of his brother’s baseball pants one morning early this spring, Taylor says he remembers exactly where he and Tyler would set up on each end of the dirt road.
“There were spots that kind of became paved in a way,” he says, “and that’s where you could throw from because there was no loose gravel.”
Situated on an incline, the twins traded off throwing uphill. They shared a truck and a cell phone and still, apparently, share baseball pants. They woke up in the same house, attended the same classes and played on the same teams. In peewee football, they wore Nos. 20 and 21 — and different-colored face masks to tell them apart.
So inseparable, neighborhood kids simply referred to them as “TayTy.”
“I had a built-in best friend right there,” Tyler says. “We’d play catch, then just go straight into shooting hoops. We were always finding stupid games to play against each other.”
Any observers of those daily catch sessions, though, would have been able to spot a difference.
Taylor was developing quite the live left arm, a valuable commodity in baseball. Whereas his catch partner, Tyler, threw with his right hand and more than a few miles an hour slower.
The Rogers are mirror image twins — identical in every way, except with many of their defining characteristics (yes, there are some) on opposite sides. The phenomenon occurs in about 25% of sets of identical twins. (And they wanted to play off it with their jersey numbers in San Francisco, but Mitch Haniger claimed No. 17 before Taylor could, to mirror his brother’s No. 71.)
That one difference made Taylor a blue-chip prospect who earned a scholarship to the University of Kentucky. Tyler didn’t make the varsity team until his senior year of high school.
It wasn’t until Tyler was at Garden City (Kansas) Community College that he developed the unique submarine motion that would set him on course to join his brother in the big leagues. Some 300 miles away from home, Tyler didn’t choose the school for its athletic prowess. It offered a fire science program, and Tyler figured he would follow in the footsteps of his father, who retired at the end of last year after 35 years as a fireman in suburban Denver.
“I think if would’ve had all his chips in on baseball, I don’t think he would’ve made that change,” Taylor says. “I think he was just OK to make that change because he wasn’t all-in on baseball. I think that’s what gave him the freedom to try that.”
The switch was suggested by Chris Finnegan, his coach at the Kansas junior college. Because of it, Rogers finds himself extinguishing only metaphorical fires, out of the bullpen. He soon garnered enough attention to transfer to Division-I Austin Peay (Clarksville, Tenn.), where he broke the NCAA single-season record for saves as a senior (with 23), met his eventual wife (Jennifer), and got the attention of the Giants (who drafted him in the 10th round in 2013).
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By 2019, Taylor had established himself as one the majors’ top left-handed relievers with the Minnesota Twins.
Tyler and Taylor Rogers have been in the same group all spring. Today, it’s live BP. Same group of hitters faced both guys.
📹 Here’s a look at Taylor: pic.twitter.com/6jqixayyCl
— Evan Webeck (@EvanWebeck) February 22, 2023
But that season, baseball was the last thing Tyler wanted to talk about. The typically jovial drives with Jennifer back to their host family’s house in Sacramento had turned quiet.
Taylor was drafted a year earlier than Tyler and sped through the minors. When he was called up in 2016, the first call he made was to his twin brother (who made him wait for 40 minutes to break the news — he was shagging batting practice). At that moment, Tyler pledged that he would return the favor when his time came.
Neither believed it would take another three and a half years and countless more phone calls between the two of them before Tyler could finally deliver the news.
Tyler toiled for four seasons at Triple-A, where he compiled a 3.27 ERA in 179 games. He was named a Pacific Coast League All-Star twice. But each time, the request from above was for somebody who threw harder than Tyler, who relies on the deception of his knuckle-dragging delivery rather than trying to overpower hitters with a fastball that tops out in the mid-80s.
“There’s other guys that have made long careers in the minors before they got called up. But none of them had their twin brother in the show and they haven’t been asked why are you there with him? They weren’t compared to anybody else,” Taylor says. “That’s more what I felt heavy for.”
Tyler Rogers, in slo-mo #SFGiants pic.twitter.com/Y3ZRSsfV4E
— Evan Webeck (@EvanWebeck) February 19, 2023
Tyler was days away from calling it quits when the call finally came. He didn’t know what more he could do, and he understood a career in the minor leagues wasn’t a path to financial security.
“I wanted to propose, but you spend a lot of time in the minor leagues, you don’t have a lot of money,” Tyler says. “I wasn’t going to go to (Jennifer’s) dad and be like, can I marry your daughter while I have no money, no job security and no plan? That wasn’t going to happen.”
Jennifer left for a week, and when she returned, Tyler had picked up his firefighting books again.
“That’s when I knew: this is probably going to be it for him,” she said. “That was just a really, really hard season for him. He amazes me that he stuck it out that long.”
Throughout it all, just like they have their entire careers, the brothers spoke almost daily over the phone. Taylor’s emotional intelligence is “very high,” according to his dad. From his perch in the big leagues, he knew exactly what to say — and not to say.
“It’s funny,” Taylor recalls. “Through that whole time when he was in Triple-A, everybody felt like I should interject. I’m like, no, I’m not going to. I’m just going to be his pal. … That’s one of the things about our relationship. Everything is just kind of understood and felt. We don’t need to have a direct conversation.”
“He was angry, too,” adds Tyler. “He wasn’t calming me down by any means. He was saying you’re pitching for 29 other teams, just wait and see. You become a free agent and see what happens. Nothing too profound.”
Taylor was the first to know. Then Jennifer. Then his parents.
“Yeah. He was there (considering retirement). Within a couple weeks of that if not less, that’s when he got the callup,” Scott says. “Obviously when any parent’s child gets the call, awesome. Very emotional. It’s great. I got to get it before with Taylor and then with Ty. And I think Tay will tell you the same thing – it seemed bigger for Ty. He had to work so hard and was always climbing.”
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Twenty minutes away from their childhood home and the dirt road in front of it is a rustic Italian ranch-style home adorned in stucco. Five thousand square feet, there is enough room for two twin brothers, one’s wife, their baby — and a putt-putt course, cornhole set-up and a foosball table.
This is Casa de Rogers.
It was after that tough 2019 season that Taylor welcomed Tyler and Jennifer into his Littleton, Colorado, home for the first time. They stayed for six weeks and started an annual tradition.
These brothers, so inseparable, they live together every offseason.
They remember the origins of the arrangement somewhat differently.
Taylor simply wanted more quality time with his brother.
According to Tyler?
“Well, I was broke and he was rich. That’s how that came about.”
Every year, the Rogers celebrate their birthday — Dec. 17 — with a catch. Around that time, Tyler and Jennifer leave her family in Indiana for Taylor’s compound in Colorado.
The mornings are for throwing. The afternoons: working out. But in the evenings? Anything goes.
“Sometimes Tay and I will gang up on Ty. Sometimes Ty and I will gang up on Tay,” says Jennifer. “It’s just fun.”
“We’re still like those little kids,” Tyler says. “I got a Broncos football in the mail and we’re just throwing it in the house like we’re kids again, but our parents aren’t there to tell us we can’t do that. So we just throw the ball in the house now.”
The big game in the family, though, is foosball.
Would it surprise you to hear the score?
“Honestly,” Tyler says, “if we play 10 games, it’ll be 5-5.”
“It’s always 50-50,” adds Taylor.
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The last set of twins to share a major-league clubhouse did so just across the Bay Bridge, at the Oakland Coliseum, where Jose and Ozzie Canseco were teammates for about 10 days in 1990. The Rogers will be only the fourth pair in history to suit up for the same team and are only the 10th set of twins to ever play in the majors. (The last ones were Ryan Minor and his brother Damon, the hitting coach for the Giants’ Triple-A affiliate Sacramento River Cats.)
Scott, who often tussled with his older brother, made sure to instill in them the unique relationship they had.
“I never let my kids duke it out,” he says. “This isn’t just your brother. This is your twin. You guys started together. You spent nine months together. You’re not going to duke it out together.”
But, he says, “I never really had to enforce that. They just had that bond.”
Despite their divergent paths, Tyler insists he was never jealous of Taylor. Taylor was never anything but supportive while Tyler found his way. Growing up, they battled — but never fought.
“Rivalries begin because the older brother is always beating up on the younger one,” Taylor says. “When you win half the time and lose half the time, then you don’t develop a rivalry.”
“It’s always been a supportive relationship,” adds Tyler. “I think that’s always been the key. Neither one of us ever really got jealous of each other. We were always really just happy for the other one. It’s cool because I guess we just pushed each other without ever really realizing it.”
While their teammates are eager to find ways to tell them apart (the tells, according to their loved ones, are their personalities: Taylor is the serious one; Tyler is more easy going), the people that know them best are more curious about how their unique bond can help them when they’re on the same team.
Each brother has called the other his personal pitching coach, but they’ve always been separated by time zones and phone calls. Now, they’ll see each other every day. Again.
“When they were with other teams,” Jennifer says, “if one had a bad outing they wanted to call each other right away. Like if Ty had a bad outing, Tay would find something like, ‘hey, I noticed this, this and this.’
“It’s funny, you have all these computers and all these coaches … but I don’t know, the two of them just find other things that they can’t find.”
“To see those two down in the bullpen,” Scott says, “I think those two are going to play off their synergy and they’re both going to do better than they normally do.”
Just don’t expect his eyes to be dry on April 7, when he will be in the stands at Oracle Park for the Giants’ home opener, and his two sons will be sitting side by side in the bullpen in center field.
“Whatever you do, don’t put a camera on me,” he says, “Because I’ll be crying.”