Josh Rogers was optioned to Triple-A at the end of Spring Training, as Washington made their final roster cuts before Opening Day, with Nats’ manager Davey Martinez explaining the decision to reporters as one made with the organization’s starting depth in mind.
“We want to make sure that if something does happen to one of our starters, that we have viable options. He’s definitely one of them, if not the first one,” Martinez said, as quoted by MLB.com’s Jessica Camerato.
So the 27-year-old southpaw, who signed with the Nationals a few days after being released by the Baltimore Orioles last summer, and put up a 3.28 ERA, 5.83 FIP, 14 walks (3.53 BB/9), and 22 Ks (5.55 K/9) in six starts and 35 2⁄3 innings pitched down the stretch last September, over which he held hitters to a .241/.320/.436 line, went to Triple-A to continue the process of getting stretched out following the three-way ramp-up to the 2022 campaign.
As the Nationals’ fifth-year skipper suggested, however, when there was a need in the major league rotation, Rogers got the first call.
Aníbal Sánchez came off the flight from West Palm Beach to D.C. last week with a stiff neck which was diagnosed as a, “cervical nerve impingement,” by the team, as they announced when they placed Sánchez on the 10-Day IL and called Rogers back up to start against the Braves on Monday night.
He hadn’t started at Triple-A yet, so the lefty’s first outing of the regular season at any level came in the series opener with the Atlanta Braves in Truist Park, and Rogers put together a solid outing, going 5 1⁄3 innings on 74 pitches before he was pulled after a one-out walk...
Josh Rogers’ Line: 5.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 Ks, 74 P, 46 S, 4/5 GO/FO.
The Nationals went on to an 11-2 win, and after the game, the left-hander’s manager said he was really impressed with Rogers’ work on the mound.
Josh Rogers, Filthy 84mph Back Foot Slider. pic.twitter.com/omk22ASQ1R— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 12, 2022
“He was awesome,” Martinez told reporters in Atlanta. “And like I said, he came up here last year and threw strikes. The key with him is attacking the strike zone early, and when he gets ahead he keeps fighting and he keeps getting outs, but his attitude, his attitude out there, man, he’s just pumped up, so it’s fun to watch him pitch. But he did a great job today.”
“Really settled in there in the third inning,” Rogers told MASN’s Bob Carpenter and Kevin Frandsen, ”kind of got my rhythm and tempo down, and just to attack the zone, and get ahead of those guys was the key tonight for me.”
Rogers collected seven swinging strikes (3 w/ his fastball; 4 w/ his slider) and 15 called strikes on the night (13 w/ FB; 2 w/ SL), and ended up right where the Nationals wanted, pitch-wise, with 74 in his first outing.
Martinez was asked after the win if he had any concerns going in that not making the club’s Opening Day roster might have affected Rogers’ confidence.
“That’s not who he is,” the manager said. “And I talked to him. Of course you’re going to be down because you wanted to make the team, but I said, ‘Hey, like I said, you’re going to be up here, be patient, we’re going to need you, and you’ll be the first one we call if we need a starter. So he went down there and he was patient and he came up here, and [Pitching coach Jim] Hickey and I talked before the game and we kind of said about 75 pitches we’re going to have to keep an eye on him, and he was right at 74, so...”