Through his first four starts with the Washington Nationals, 27-year-old left-hander Josh Rogers had a 2.16 ERA, a 4.53 FIP, seven walks, 16 Ks, and a .205/.276/.341 line against.
Rogers, (who signed a minor league deal with the Nationals back in early June, three days after the Baltimore Orioles released him just four minor league appearances into the 2021 campaign, following Tommy John surgery in ‘19 and a season off in ‘20’s COVID campaign), was coming off a solid 7 2⁄3-inning start against the Miami Marlins last week when he talked with reporters about how appreciative he was of the opportunity he earned with his new organization.
“I’m just not taking anything for granted,” Rogers said.
“I’m just super-blessed and fortunate to be given an opportunity from the Nats like I’ve been saying every time. They took a chance on me. I got released by the Orioles — so it’s like, somebody took a chance on me, so super-pumped and just not taking anything for granted.
“Just one outing at a time, really, I know it’s cliché, and everybody says, ‘One outing at a time, one pitch at a time,’ but that’s really how it has to be.
“The mental approach for me has really been that. And the focus part has been there, so just continue to get better and just earn my way around here is what I want to do.”
Going into his start in Sunday’s series finale in Cincinnati, Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez said there was a sizable contingent of Rogers’ friends and family in attendance in Ohio’s Great American Ball Park to watch him pitch since the southpaw grew up 1 hour and 55 minutes south in New Albany, Indiana.
“I saw quite a bit of them this morning with Rogers jerseys on in the hotel,” Martinez told reporters in his pregame Zoom call on Sunday morning. “It will be exciting for him, it’s a good homecoming for him, he’s got a lot of people coming. So it’s going to be exciting.”
Asked if he had any concerns that the naturally amped-up lefty might be too amped with all those people in the park watching him and cheering him on, Martinez said, “No.”
“He loves that, and that’s who he is. He’s going to go out there and compete and be himself and I’m looking forward to watching him pitch again and compete.”
Rogers struggled with his command from the start, however, and though he managed to get through four scoreless, things fell apart in the fifth inning, when he gave up a leadoff double by Jonathan India, on a 1-0 fastball down the pipe, a two-run home run to right by Tyler Stephenson on a 1-0 fastball high, up and out of the zone, and a solo homer by Nick Castellanos on a 2-2 changeup that was pretty much middle-middle.
After what ended up a 9-2 loss, Rogers said the start overall, which ended for him after just 4 2⁄3 IP, was “super disappointing”. In all, he gave up seven hits (two of them homers), three runs, and four walks in a 102-pitch outing.
“Gave up the double to India there,” Rogers explained, “fell behind 1-0 to Stephenson and threw an arm-side fastball, it was like two balls above the zone, and he clips it for a homer, and then make a horrible pitch to Castellanos, he hits back-to-back homers.”
“It was a grind all day,” he continued, “... and I’m really fortunate I didn’t give up more than three with four walks, is just awful for me, it’s very uncharacteristic. It’s not like I was trying to nibble and not pound the zone, it’s just some days you just don’t have it and today I think was just one of those days, and I got to be better on trying to make an adjustment.”
“He struggled with his location with his fastball,” Martinez said. “Command was a little off today, just a lot of arm-side misses. but he battled, and he gave up two home runs, kept us close in the game, but he gave up two home runs. He had a lot of pitches when we got him out of the game, but just one of those days. I talked to him. He said he just couldn’t find that strike zone consistently. He’s trying to get the ball down and in sometimes and couldn’t get it down and in.”
“Wasn’t too like amped up or anything,” Rogers added, “... just didn’t have the command today, and just tried to compete and keep us in it.”
He did have a cheering section though, and it seemed like a lot of people. Even the umps noticed.
“Yeah, [Lance] Barksdale, the third base umpire, he was like, “Man, are you from around here?’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m from Louisville, Kentucky area,’” where he went to college at the University of Louisville, “so to all my people from New Albany, who came up here, probably close to 300 people, so it was really a special day for all those people to kind of see me and special for me to hear — getting cheers on the road is awesome. So everybody from New Albany, it’s humbling and just a surreal feeling when you got the support from the people back at home. So I can’t say enough about them, they’ve supported me all the way through it and it’s been pretty cool to have them here.”
Had he ever had that big a cheering section in the stands for one of his starts?
“When I pitched at Louisville it was pretty easy for people to get over, but definitely in the big leagues that was the most,” Rogers said. “My mom, she was all pumped up today, and posted on Facebook, and they had shirts made, I think they sold like — they got 80 shirts with my name on the back. So it was cool to see and just to have that support, you know means the world to me and I just got to continue to get better and keep grinding through it.”