1996: Twins Re-sign Aguilera

One of the objectives of our organization was to try to add a veteran pitcher who would come in and help some of our younger pitchers. With Rick, we are very familiar with what we have to go upon. We asked if he would consider starting, and he responded favorably.

-Terry Ryan, quoted by Scott Miller in The Sporting News, 12/25/1995

Rick Aguilera did not want to be traded to Boston during the 1995 season. He was in the midst of a career season, even by the high standards he had set since the early 1990′s. It was hard to argue that the 33-year-old was not the top closer in baseball. Still, the Twins needed young starting pitching, so General Manager Terry Ryan sent Aggie to Boston for Frankie Rodriguez and a prospect in July of 1995.

While Aguilera was interested in returning to Minnesota as a free agent after the 1995 season, the Twins were not interested in acquiring a closer. What Ryan said the team needed was a veteran starter. Though Aguilera had not started a game since 1989, he was willing to make the move in order to return to Minnesota.

He was penciled in to the number two spot in the rotation, behind Brad Radke. A spring case of tendonitis in his wrist put off Aguilera’s first start, but he finally made it on April 20, a 7-6 loss against the New York Yankees. Aggie was on a pitch count and lasted just three innings. It turned out the start came too early, and the veteran was placed back on the disabled list. After a rehab assignment, Aggie made his next start on June 11, when he allowed five runs in the first inning to the Seattle Mariners. He finally got his first win in his next start against the Tigers.

Aguilera ended the season with an 8-6 record in 19 starts for the Twins. His ERA+ as a starter was 94 (compared with a 188 ERA+ as a closer the season before). In the winter, Aguilera told Terry Ryan that he preferred to stay in the starting rotation, but ultimately was moved back to the closer role by the end of spring training 1997.

It is difficult to say how much of Aguilera’s mediocre performance as a starter in 1996 was due to the wrist injury that he never really shook. Nagging inuries continued to plague Aggie in 1997, but as a closer he was well above league average (121 ERA+), though not as dominant as he had been.

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