Minnesota Twins Opening Day Countdown: 26, Aguilera saves in 1997

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28 Feb 1998: Pitcher Rick Aguilera of the Minnesota Twins in action during a spring training game against the Cincinnati Reds at the Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Florida. The Reds defeated the Twins 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Craig Melvin /Allsport
28 Feb 1998: Pitcher Rick Aguilera of the Minnesota Twins in action during a spring training game against the Cincinnati Reds at the Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Florida. The Reds defeated the Twins 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Craig Melvin /Allsport /
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The Minnesota Twins are just 26 days away from Opening Day in Baltimore. As we near that day, here is more Twins history related to that number.

The Minnesota Twins are preparing for a 2018 season with expectation after making the playoffs in 2017 as a Wild Card team. We will highlight numbers from team history that represent the number of days until Opening Day on March 29th in Baltimore.

Today as we reach 26 days we welcome back a former Twins closer that has 254 saves under his belt for the second most in franchise history. We welcome him back similarly to how he was welcomed back to the bullpen and his closer role in 1997 with the Twins. A while back we recognized him for wearing the number 38, today we recognize his 26 saves recorded in the 1997 season.

The Starter-Closer struggle

It seems Aguilera, like any young pitcher, dreamed of becoming a major league starter. That had helped to create this love-hate type relationship with the closer’s role he appeared to have. The hate side of the relationship with relief pitching in part brought Aguilera to Minnesota. He was part of that major haul for Twins that was received for 1987 World Series hero Frank Viola.

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By the time that second Twins World Series championship had come around in 1991. Aguilera found himself as the Twins established closer. A role he would hold until the 1995 season when he would be traded to the Boston Red Sox mid-season. Only to return the next season as a free agent. In 1996, manager Tom Kelly pegged Aguilera to lead the Twins starting rotation, but Aguilera would find himself back in his bullpen role come 1997.

Settling back into a familiar role

In 1997,  as Aguilera would return to that old, familiar role as Twins closer he appeared in 61 games while logging 26 saves. Aguilera also recorded a 3.82 ERA and one of his better strikeout rates of a season recording 9.0 K/9.

It is too bad that the Twins couldn’t have been more competitive those final seasons as a Twin. Aguilera may have been able to record even more in the way of saves. It would have also fed more into the enjoyment that Aguilera did have in closing. Something we may have gotten a glimpse at in a quote from him back in 1986:

"Maybe this is the best thing for me. Actually, I don’t remember what it feels like to start. But if I keep getting the ball in important situations, fine. I can get as much satisfaction out of a save as I used to get when I won as a starter."

Next: The Twins front office must remain aggressive

Even if Aguilera always preferred starting, he found success and enjoyment as a closer. The role Twins fans will always remember him in. Twins fans also only have 26 days until we can watch the 2018 bullpen do their own work to close out games.

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