Following his first start of the season for the Washington Nationals last September, 27-year-old lefty Josh Rogers, (who was signed in early June, three days after he was released by the Baltimore Orioles, following only four games (two starts) back from a year off during 2020’s 60-game COVID campaign, during which he rehabbed from Tommy John surgery), said he’d changed things up a bit to give hitters a different look as he worked his way back.
With a twitchy, swaying, rocking motion on the mound as he went into his delivery, Rogers hoped to throw hitters’ timing off.
“I just started that this year,” the southpaw explained. “I mean, you watch so many guys, like it’s just the same thing, it’s a set, it’s a turn, and it’s a throw. And hitting is just timing. So I’m just trying to do everything I can to get some momentum, get some flow out there I guess, and just go from there. So I just started this year — I changed a little bit in my delivery, I anchor my foot before so I’m not like square, and just that like swaying motion back and forth, I don’t know, I’m just kind of feeling myself a little bit I guess, and it’s been working out so I’m going to keep doing it.”
Rogers did keep doing it over the final month of the season, as he put up a 3.28 ERA, a 5.83 FIP, 14 walks, and 22 Ks in six starts and 35 2⁄3 innings pitched, over which he held hitters to a .241/.320/.436 line against.
Josh Rogers after tonight's start: "I always say I’m not Stras, I’m not Gerrit Cole, I’m not going to punch the world. So what I’m going to do is, be the best Josh Rogers that I can be, and that’s working efficiently, throwing a bunch of strikes."— Jessica Camerato (@JessicaCamerato) March 19, 2022
Back for a second season with the Nationals this year, Rogers got the nod for the Grapefruit League opener with the Miami Marlins last night, with manager Davey Martinez saying in his first outing of the spring they hoped the starter could get two innings of work in.
The choice of starters, Martinez said, was really a simple decision.
“Just he was ready,” he told reporters.
“I mean, this guy’s been throwing. He said, ‘I can throw seven innings today.’ So, he’s going to pitch two innings. So, but he’s been throwing quite a bit, he’s already had like seven live BPs coming in here, so he’s ready to go.”
The manager, who is heading into his fifth season on the bench in D.C., said he wanted to see Rogers go out and throw strikes to the Fish.
Asked what stood out from Rogers’ early work this year, Martinez said, “just his consistency.”
“He’s worked on some stuff,” the skipper explained.
“He said he wanted to get better with his changeup, and really start locating his fastball better. I mean, but he did well last year for us. He came up and kept us in ballgames, and pitched well, so he’s getting an opportunity to obviously start today, but we’re going to keep a close eye on him.
“The good thing is — is that he’s here, he’s ready, and it gives us a little bit more depth.
“So whether he’s a fifth starter when we break camp, or he’s down in the minor leagues just getting ready, he’s another guy that we can rely on.”
Considering that Stephen Strasburg has already suggested he wants to get in a full spring’s workload in before he starts the season, coming off another season-ending surgery in 2021, and Joe Ross has already been shut down when a bone spur in his elbow, (which has since been surgically removed) caused discomfort as he threw preparing for Spring Training early this month, the club is going to need starting depth going forward.
Rogers made a strong first impression last season. With his quirky delivery and personality, he stands out, and Martinez said he appreciated what the left-hander brought to the team, and the clubhouse.
“I’m going to use the word, ‘energetic’, but yeah, he brings a lot of energy and he’s actually fun to watch,” Martinez said a few hours before the Grapefruit League opener yesterday.
“My thing with him is, and I tell him all the time, as long as you’re around the strike zone you can get outs. He’s a guy that I’m not looking for him to strike guys out, I’m looking for him to put the ball on the ground, he should be a ground ball pitcher.
Josh Rogers on feeling comfortable with the #Nationals following his start. pic.twitter.com/lzv6rHHfuS— Jessica Camerato (@JessicaCamerato) March 19, 2022
“But he’s a lot of fun to be around, and he lifts everybody up in the clubhouse. You see him he’s always dancing, always cheerful, so right now we got two of those guys, three of those guys, with [Gerardo] Parra and [Aníbal Sánchez] in there right now dancing all over the place, so it’s kind of fun.”
Considering the fact that he had Tommy John back in 2019, and didn’t pitch competitively in 2020, before returning and throwing a total of 126 innings between Triple-A with the O’s and Nats’ top affiliates, and in the majors with the Nationals last year, the club is going to be watching the starter closely this spring and in the regular season.
“We’re definitely going to keep an eye on him,” Martinez said. “The biggest thing — he can’t help us in the training room, so we’re going to make sure that he stays healthy.”
Rogers’ 2022 debut saw him throw a quick, 1-2-3 top of the first, but he returned to the hill in the second and gave up a leadoff home run to left-center by Lorenzo Quintana before a double to right that didn’t amount to anything for Marlins, who took the first game of the spring by a final score of 8-3.
“Felt pretty good for first time out,” Rogers told reporters after the outing. “Was excited to get the ball for the first game and get things rolling. Put in a lot of work this offseason to really come in prepared and ready to roll, and felt really good with all my pitches in the strike zone, and trying to get ahead, obviously need to do a little bit better job than that.
“But all in all,” he added, “I felt like it was pretty good.
“I gave up the solo homer in the second, but probably a bad sequence there, but it happens, but I felt great all in all, I think it was pretty good.”