When left-handed pitcher Josh Rogers took the mound in relief for the Orioles Feb. 28, it marked the first time Rogers had pitched in a competitive game in 614 days. The catalysts for this lengthy gap were two-fold: He had UCL revision surgery in July 2019, and then his return to the mound was slowed due to COVID-19 wiping out the minor-league season in 2020.
Rogers, 26, allowed one run on two hits in his one inning of work against the Pittsburgh Pirates, but nothing could take away from Rogers’ excitement about returning.
“I just wanted to get that first hitter out of the way, honestly,” Rogers said on Glenn Clark Radio March 4. “I wasn’t really nervous or anything like that. I was excited about being back out there and being with the guys … which is my favorite part of the game, being with teammates and being a part of a team.”
Rogers also experienced loss during his strenuous journey of returning to the big leagues. His grandfather, with whom Rogers was extremely close, passed away last July while Rogers was rehabbing.
“I had a lot going on during quarantine,” Rogers said. “I would rehab in the mornings and then spend time with the family in the afternoons. It was kind of a blessing in disguise for me to be able to be home, be around my grandpa and family during those tough times. Quarantine was not fun, but at the same time I got to spend some time with them and really focus on my career.”
Rogers was not the only Oriole who returned to competition Feb. 28, as first baseman Trey Mancini returned from his well-documented fight against stage 3 colon cancer. Like all the fans in attendance in Sarasota, Fla., Rogers was thrilled to see Mancini back on the field.
“I went up to him before the game and gave him a big hug, like, ‘Bro, I’m so proud of you, I’m so happy for you,'” Rogers said. “I’m sure he had tons and tons of emotion. To see everybody give him an ovation, both sides standing up, I literally had cold chills in the bullpen. … For him to get a hit, that’s just what Trey does.”
“Just to kind of attest to what kind of person Trey is, it was like an hour later. My phone buzzes. He texted me. He’s like, ‘Hey man, I am so sorry, I didn’t even congratulate you. I didn’t even realize you were coming back,” Rogers added. “I was like, ‘Bro, it is OK. This is not about me at all.'”
It’s unclear where Rogers will begin the 2021 season and what role he’ll fill. He was originally acquired by the Orioles in 2018 as part of the return for reliever Zack Britton. Rogers is known as a control pitcher, as evidenced by his 1.84 walks per nine innings throughout his 436.0 minor-league innings, most of which came as a starter. His career minor-league ERA is 3.76.
Rogers’ stints in the majors from 2018-2019 were less than stellar, but he’s only thrown 26.0 innings and his elbow injury may have hindered his capabilities in 2019. He does not have blow-you-away stuff, as his fastball usually sits below 90 mph, but if he can rekindle his command and control, he can help the Orioles.
“I’m not Gerrit Cole. I’m not a Cy Young winner, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be a really good big-league arm and healthy and be effective and win games and pitch innings and really help a team win at that level,” Rogers said. “… I feel like I have to hit the ground running.”
As Rogers works to make tangible contributions this year, the Orioles, and particularly their pitching staff, have been getting next to no love from analysts and the media leading up to the season. Those comments could not possibly faze Rogers.
“The media has to make storylines and headlines,” Rogers said. “… As I’m getting older, I’m getting less and less in-depth reading all that kind of stuff. Obviously you’ve seen it the last couple of years. I think we extremely hard. That’s a tribute to [manager Brandon Hyde] and our staff. I don’t think that we are a team that people want to face.”
For more from Rogers, listen to the full interview here:
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