SARASOTA, Fla. -- Taylor Rogers compared it to driving a car with the steering wheel on the right side. "It's the same thing, but it's a little different," the Twins left-hander said of trying to prepare for the possibility that he could be a reliever or a starter when the regular season opens.
Rogers started for the Twins on Thursday night against a split squad of Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium, in Minnesota's eventual 4-1 loss. Except that he's competing for the job in the Minnesota bullpen. Unless he starts the year at Triple-A Rochester, in which case he'll probably be in the rotation as he was last year, when he was an International League All-Star.
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"My mindset going into it is just to control the things I can control," Rogers said after pitching two scoreless innings against an O's lineup that included Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Chris Davis, Pedro Alvarez and J.J. Hardy.
"When I get the opportunity to pitch, I'm going to go out there and try to do well. That's the only thing I'm worried about, because that's the only thing I can control. So I don't want to waste any energy or thoughts on other things."
Rogers threw 16 of his 18 pitches for strikes including first-pitch strikes to all seven batters he faced.
"That was the gameplan going into it,'' he said. "Obviously, you don't want to work behind to those guys. I feel like I was attacking and gained some control. I just felt good about executing it."
He gave up two hits and benefited from a double play and a terrific diving catch center fielder Max Kepler made to rob Machado leading off the first. He got the start because Phil Hughes pitched in a Minor League game Thursday afternoon.
"It was exciting,'' Rogers said. "It was something that was familiar. I just felt good about the routine going into it. I'm glad they gave me the opportunity, and I'm glad to have taken advantage of it. I'm feeling more comfortable as camp is going on. Just pitching more and refining everything. That's what Spring Training is for. I'm just starting to feel the groove a little bit, and hopefully take it into the season."
It remains to be seen what that role will be.
"Obviously, I'll do whatever they ask me,'' he said. "Just getting the chance to pitch. Whatever helps the ballclub. Relieving is a little different, but I'm just trying to embrace it and try to learn a little bit each time I've gone out. It's nice. I'm kind of figuring things out as I go along."
General manager Terry Ryan said it's "more than likely" Rogers would start if he doesn't stick with the big club and added: "I don't want to set the club for those guys down in Triple-A. We may have more starters than slots. I've always felt if you send a guy down there and he pitches as a starter, you can bring him back both ways. But I'm not going to pull the plug on him. He's still got a chance to make this team as a reliever."
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.