Tired Rogers satisfied with AFL stint
Forget what the numbers say. Brewers pitching prospect Mark Rogers is satisfied with his stint in the Arizona Fall League and the end of a long but healthy season. He’s also ready for a break.
Speaking Friday on a well-deserved day off, Rogers thought there was a “good chance” that he would get at least an inning of work in Saturday’s AFL Championship game. It would offer one last chance to put a positive finish on an up-and-down experience.
Rogers has been pitching — and struggling — for the Peoria Javelinas, a team of Brewers, Mariners, White Sox, Tigers and Dodgers prospect in the prestigious AFL. His team is set to face the Phoenix Desert Dogs on Saturday in a 1:35 p.m. CT game that will air on MLB Network.
“I’m really fortunate to be with a great group of guys,” said Rogers, one of eight Brewers prospects on the team. “I’ll chalk it up as another great experience in my career.”
It’s almost over, and that might not be a bad thing. Rogers, the fifth overall pick in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, is coming off the longest season of his career after two full years lost entirely to shoulder surgeries. Before this season, Rogers had not pitched in a game since June 2006.
He made up for lost time by posting a 1.63 ERA in 22 starts and one relief appearance at Class A Brevard County. Working on a strict pitch count, Rogers struck out 67 batters in 64 2/3 innings and touched 98 mph on the radar gun.
His AFL stint hasn’t been quite as smooth. Entering Saturday’s finale, Rogers had allowed 18 earned runs and 20 hits including three home runs in 10 2/3 innings. He walked nine, versus seven walks. Opponents were hitting .392 against him.
“I think I’m seeing a little bit of the fatigue from my first full season in three years, that’s for sure” he admitted. “But in the meantime I’m learning a lot. There are some really good hitters down here, and they hit mistakes. You have to be able to pitch.
“It’s definitely going to be something to build on for next Spring Training. The main thing is that I feel good, but at the same time I do feel like it’s my first full season in three years. It’s a long year. That everyday grind adds up.”
He began preparing for the 2009 season last November, meaning Rogers has now been throwing every day for more than 12 months. He’s looking forward to a post-AFL break. This year, he’ll take part in the conditioning portion of the Brewers’ offseason minicamp and will continue his shoulder exercises, but probably won’t start throwing regularly until January.
“I know I can make it through a full season now with my arm feeling great, and that makes me really excited for next season,” said Rogers, who could find himself in Double-A Huntsville this time. “I’m going to come in fresh and ready to go with a lot more experience under my belt. Compare that to last year, when it was a clean slate. This time I have a lot of confidence that I can come into camp and turn some heads.”
The Brewers added Rogers to their 40-man roster last year and burned the first of his three Minor League options in March.
“I think he is starting to get things ironed out,” Brewers farm director Reid Nichols said. “He has been through a lot to this point. It was pretty exciting to see the mid-90 [mph] fastball come back. Now it’s just touch and feel and learning to read hitters. It may take some time because he missed a lot of it. The good news is he is healthy.”
Rogers was not the only Brewers pitching prospect who struggled in the AFL.
In 2009 the Brewers added Josh Butler to the 40-man roster, another intriguing right-handed pitching prospect who struggled alongside Rogers. After going 9-3 with a 2.97 ERA for four Brewers affiliates and earning a taste of the Majors in September, Butler struggled to an 11.93 ERA in six fall league starts. Opponents hit him at a .429 clip.
Fellow 40-man roster member Omar Aguilar had a 7.11 ERA in nine relief appearances. Left-hander Zack Braddock was a bright spot before he surrendered six earned runs on four walks and four hits in 1/3 inning of relief work on Thursday, an outing that bumped his ERA from 0.87 to 5.25. Righty Rob Wooten allowed five runs in nine relief innings for a 5.00 ERA.
The Brewers’ hitters in the AFL offered more to feel good about. Catcher Jonathan Lucroy was especially impressive, drawing raves from scouts and the Brewers officials who saw him play, hitting .310 through Thursday with two home runs and 10 RBIs. Outfielder Lorenzo Cain, who on Wednesday was added to the 40-man roster, hit .242 but posted a solid .375 on-base percentage as the Javelinas’ leadoff hitter.
Third baseman Taylor Green was batting .212 entering Saturday’s finale but had four of his 11 hits and all six of his RBIs in the Javelinas’ last three games.
“I believe that if you have this experience, it’s going to make you better,” Rogers said. “It’s been a great year for me, and I don’t want to look at it as anything else. I look forward to a full season ahead of me without a pitch count where I can just go play.”
Follow Brew Beat on Twitter.