FORT MYERS, Fla. — The first time the careers of Rocco Baldelli and Alex Colome intersected, the reliever was just beginning his professional career, pitching in the lower levels of the minor leagues. At that point, he wasn’t even a reliever at all.
For much of Colome’s early career, Baldelli had a front row seat, watching him develop from a minor league starter into a dominant major league closer. They were both players in the Tampa Bay Rays’ organization at the same time. Years later, Baldelli was the Rays’ first-base coach when Colome, now 32, developed into an all-star.
So it should come as no surprise that the Twins’ manager played a large role during the Twins’ recruitment of Colome this offseason. Baldelli and designated hitter Nelson Cruz, whom Colome played with in Seattle, said more than enough to lure the right-hander to the Twin Cities. The Twins and Colome finalized their one-year deal with a mutual option earlier this month.
Colome described Baldelli as someone who listens and someone with whom he feels comfortable. From Cruz, he heard about the clubhouse, about the Twins’ chemistry and about the team’s recent success.
“After I had those two conversations, one with Rocco and one with Nelson, it was obvious that this was the place I wanted to be at,” Colome said Sunday.
The Twins felt the same way. Colome was featured prominently in many of the Twins’ offseason discussions about additions to the club, and Baldelli said he was “not slow” to get on the phone and give Colome his sales pitch to tell him about the opportunity awaiting him in Minnesota.
The opportunity in Minnesota might be somewhat different than what Colome is used to — he has 138 career saves, and in 2017 he led the American League with 47. In his last two seasons with the Chicago White Sox, Colome posted a 2.27 earned-run average and converted 42 saves in 83 1/3 innings.
But the Twins operate a little differently. They prefer not to name a closer, even though Taylor Rogers has handled a bulk of those duties in the past couple of seasons, and instead remain flexible.
Baldelli said Sunday that both Rogers and Colome would close out a lot of games for the Twins this season. He also said that Hansel Robles could be called upon to finish off some games and noted that Tyler Duffey has been one of the best relievers in the game for the past couple of years.
“A lot of our guys will have some type of role. It just may not be as specific as a particular inning. And sometimes it will change depending on all of the different variables,” Baldelli said. “When we have talked to our guys about being flexible, about being fluid, about pitching in different spots, most of our guys have adapted very, very well to it, and ultimately it is a benefit to us when we are trying to win each and every night.”
And that’s something Colome seems to be on board with. He said he has always felt that his career took off after he was given the chance to become a closer, and he enjoys pitching in close situations — which he will continue to do — whether he has the closer label or not.
“Coming to a team that works differently than other places, I don’t have that in my mind that I have to be the closer or not,” Colome said. “I’m just trying to help the team win, and this is a good team and this is a good place to be at. That’s where my mindset is right now.”