This installment in “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers” marks the halfway point in the series.
I have written 23 parts, this is the 24th and I have 23 more to go before Opening Day.
It’s truly a labor of love.
That’s also what game of baseball at a professional level can be for many players. The passion is there but the breaks never go their way. The mind is willing but the flesh is weak. The body endures but the mind plays tricks.
It has been a career of miscommunication between body and mind for today’s subject:
The 2004 First-Year Player Draft has produced a member of the Milwaukee Brewers starting rotation. That starting pitcher, Yovani Gallardo, was drafted in the second round that year. The person drafted in the first round was Mark Elliot Rogers.
Drafted out of high school with the 5th overall pick in the draft, Rogers was described by Baseball America with the following scouting report:
“His fastball was so dominant against weak competition in Maine this spring that he struck out 99 in his first 38 innings, while allowing just three hits. Rogers’ lean, athletic build with room to fill out and get stronger. His fastball generally sits in the 90-95 mph range, with natural, hard running action and occasional bore. Rogers’ hammer curve has solid rotation with three-quarter break and excellent depth for his arm slot. He projects as a No. 2 or 3 starter.”
The problem with projections is that they can all be rendered moot without health; and Rogers simply has been unable to stay healthy.
Rogers first began to feel shoulder discomfort while pitching for the High-A affiliate at Brevard County in 2007. The subsequent off-season saw Rogers undergo shoulder surgery to repair a frayed labrum. Rogers still wasn’t healthy, however, and required a second surgery in 2008 to cleanup scar tissue around the site of the original surgery.
That second surgery had been put off for a while in part because Rogers was worried about needing a second surgery on the same injury. He may have felt his career was on the line. Fortunately the second surgery was a success and Rogers was finally able to begin to throw pain-free once his rehab was completed.
Rogers spent 2009 under a very restricted workload once again at Brevard County. He also threw in the Arizona Fall League after the regular season.
The next year began for Rogers in Huntsville at Double-A (he made one spot-start for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds during the year) and actually ended with Rogers’ big league debut. A far cry from missing two seasons of development.
Rogers pitched in four games for the Brewers, including two starts. His results were pretty good but the accomplishment of making it there at all should be the focus.
Now, finally, let’s take a look at Rogers 2011 season.
Following the trades for Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, Rogers was resigned to begin the season in the minor leagues. An infamous pick-up game of basketball opened the door to a big league job.
Along with Amaury Rivas, Wily Peralta and, ultimately, Marco Estrada, Rogers’ spring all of a sudden became about possibly heading north on the 25-man roster.
Any guesses as to what cost Rogers the opportunity that Estrada turned into a season-long MLB job? If you guessed “injury” you’ve been paying attention.
Rogers’ Spring Training was slowed by shoulder stiffness early in camp so he wasn’t ready to go by the time the team needed a fill-in. Rogers began the season in the minors after all, but that wasn’t the worst of what would happen in 2011.
After that early shoulder stiffness, Rogers ended up battling dual carpal tunnel syndrome which would eventually require surgery to fix.
What else could go wrong, right? How about a 25-game suspension for using a banned stimulant?
Rogers has addressed the situation this spring saying: “I felt stupid. Obviously, I regret what happened, but it falls on nobody’s shoulders but my own. I’m paying the penalty for it.”
He also explained that he was trying anything to salvage his season saying that “I took a supplement that wasn’t [approved]. I was surprised to get that phone call. But it’s definitely my fault. I take full responsibility for everything I put in my body, and I let that lapse.”
2012 was looking like it could be the end of Rogers’ time with the Brewers. Normally he’d have been out of minor league options to begin the year. However, with all the injuries and missed time, the Brewers petitioned the league for an additional option which was granted last fall.
What that means is that even though (and especially because) there aren’t any openings in the big league rotation this year, Rogers gets another season in the minors to hopefully stay healthy and refine his game so that when up to four jobs are available next spring, Rogers has the chance to compete and win one.
Rogers still has 6 games of his suspension left to serve, but should hopefully hit the ground running (or would that be hit the mound pitching?) once he’s allowed to.
In other words, Rogers needs to finally have lady luck turn in his favor in his professional career. He feels “significantly different” in his wrists and expects his command to rebound as a result.
Believe me when I say that as Brewers fans we’re breaking out the four-leafed clovers and rabbits feet.