Twins' Rooker sticks with what got him here

First-round Draft pick goes 4-for-5, smacks first career homer

Brent Rooker led the NCAA with a .873 slugging percentage and 28 doubles this season. (Kelly Price/Mississippi State Athletics)

By Michael Peng / | June 24, 2017 11:39 PM

A simple approach to the game has made Brent Rooker a Golden Spikes finalist and a first-round pick in this month's First-Year Player Draft. Now he plans to develop a promising professional career with it.

In his third game since getting drafted 35th overall by the Twins, Rooker went 4-for-5 with his first Minor League homer Saturday as Rookie-level Elizabethton rallied for an 8-7 win over Danville at Joe O'Brien Field.

Gameday box score

"The first three games so far, I'm just trying to enjoy it and soak it up, stay relaxed and have a lot of fun," Rooker said. "The hard work went in this past season at school, trying to get drafted, trying to prove myself, and I feel like I did that. Now I'm just trying to get a little bit better every single day and enjoy the process."

The first Southeastern Conference Player of the Year in Mississippi State history, Rooker led the nation with a .873 slugging percentage and 28 doubles as a redshirt junior while posting a .415 batting average, 20 homers, 73 RBIs and 18 stolen bases.

One of the four Golden Spikes finalists -- the winner will be named on Thursday -- Rooker was taken by Minnesota in the Competitive Balance A round of the Draft on June 12 before signingfor $1.9 million.

"The past few weeks have been crazy," he said. "I feel like I haven't really had time to breathe or take a break much. After the Draft, I was flying all over the place, signing stuff and just kind of getting used the Twins' way of doing things. It's been a really fun two weeks for me, really exciting things are happening. I'm just really excited to get the journey started and get the process underway."

In his professional debut in Friday's doubleheader, Rooker went 1-for-4 with a run scored in the opener and 0-for-2 in the nightcap that was completed early due to rain. 

"I'm just trying to carry on what I did this past college season into pro ball," Rooker said. "Baseball is always going to be the same, the game hasn't changed and my approach to hitting hasn't changed. It's always been the same. I just want to continue to take those steps forward every day and incrementally get to where I want to be."

Facing Braves No. 16 prospect Kyle Muller in his first at-bat on Saturday, Rooker went back-to-back with Trey Cabbage -- who just hit a two-run shot -- with a long ball that cleared the left-center field wall.

"[Muller] was throwing the ball pretty well and his fastball was kind of jumping on you a little bit and had some pretty good perceived velo," Rooker said. "On the third pitch, I figured I haven't seen an off-speed yet, so I'll just stay on the fastball and try to catch it out front and I did that. It felt good coming off the bat.

"It was exciting. That's something I've always wanted to do. It's just the first step in a really long journey, but at the same time, it's a really exciting time, really exciting event for me, so I try to cherish it, for sure."

The 22-year-old outfielder followed up with singles in the third and fifth before delivering an RBI double to right in the seventh that cut the Twins' deficit to 7-5.

"I was just trying to stay on fastballs," Rooker said. "I feel like that's how my approach was throughout college. Teams were giving me fastballs and I don't want to miss them. I want to make the team prove to me that they can throw off-speed pitches for strikes before I start to respect that pitch and stay on fastballs as much as I can and try to put my best swings on them."

The Tennessee native had chance to make his night that much more special when he stepped to the plate in the ninth after Cabbage drew a leadoff walk against closer Jesus Heredia with Elizabethton down by one.

"I thought it had a chance, but I wasn't positive it was going out," Rooker said of his long fly ball to center. "I think it would've hit the bottom of the wall if [Isranel Wilson] hadn't caught it, but I put a good swing on it and barreled it."

The E-Twins still walked off with the win as Shane Carrier singled and Matt Albanese delivered a two-run double to left.

"Our lineup swung it really well tonight and I was really proud of our guys. It was a fun game," Rooker said.

Albanese's double capped a perfect night at the plate as he finished 3-for-3 with two walks. Cabbage drove in two runs, while Kolton Kendrick was 2-for-4 with an RBI.

Michael Peng is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @MichaelXPeng. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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