'This one felt really good': Rogers finds form in return

September 1st, 2022

MIAMI -- Despite a 2-1 loss to the Rays in 10 innings to close out their six-game homestand at loanDepot park, the Marlins are hitting the road (or tarmac) with at least some happy vibes.

, a 2021 All-Star who finished second in the National League Rookie of the Year voting, was back on the bump on Wednesday night for the first time in more than a month.

“This one felt really good,” Rogers said. “It was huge for me mentally. I felt like a little kid just jumping up and down, [because] it finally felt good out there.”

Rogers was having an up-and-down season when he went on the 15-day injured list on July 29 with lower back spasms, which presented themselves while he was reworking his mechanics. The 24-year-old lefty, who finished 2021 with a 2.64 ERA, had put up a 7.06 ERA in June and a 5.84 ERA in July.

Rogers hadn’t taken the mound in the bigs since July 25, when he tied his second-shortest start of the year with 3 2/3 innings in Cincinnati and allowed six runs on eight hits and two walks. After returning to Miami, Rogers looked at video and worked with pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. to get his mechanics back to their 2021 form.

As a result, Rogers was activating muscles that hadn’t been used since last year. That led to the soreness and spasms that landed the southpaw on the IL.

“It was just evolution and trying to change things,” Rogers said on July 29 about how his mechanics had changed since 2021. “[When] we really dug down and saw how out of whack I was, [then we were] going back to how I was last year and really trying to feel that [again].”

Rogers looked more like his quality, dominant self again on Wednesday, striking out five while holding the Rays to one run on five hits and one walk. And after throwing 84 pitches, he was in such a groove that it wouldn’t have been too surprising if the Marlins had let him start the seventh inning.

“Shoot, I was like, ‘Give me the seventh, eighth and ninth, I got it,’” Rogers said. “[But] all kidding aside, I kind of knew when I went down there [after the sixth], I had 80-something pitches. I kind of figured my day was done. But I definitely wanted to get out there and finish the thing.”

Before the game, manager Don Mattingly said his hope was simply for Rogers to build on his last rehab start on Thursday with Triple-A Jacksonville, when he struck out 12 over six no-hit innings. It’s safe to say Rogers accomplished that task.

The run Rogers allowed came in the sixth, when Harold Ramírez’s two-out double plated Yandy Díaz, who had doubled to lead off the inning. While Rogers faced the minimum in just two of his six innings, he remained composed and confident, able to rely on his defense for the assist when necessary.

“All I'm trying to do [is] put the first half of the season behind me,” Rogers said. “Can't change that now, [just] use it as a kind of a building block, and [I’m] really just trying to finish strong. Really give this team an opportunity to win every time I'm out there and take it into the offseason.”

It helped that Jon Berti answered Tampa Bay's run in the sixth with a homer in the bottom half. It also helped that Berti and Joey Wendle each turned a double play, despite neither starting in the position he was slated to play. Berti was on the bench and Wendle at third base until a late scratch of Miguel Rojas (right wrist discomfort), which bumped Wendle to shortstop and put Berti in the lineup at third.

Miami’s offense wasn’t able to get going. But with Rogers returning from the IL and the bullpen allowing just one 10th-inning run to the Rays, things are looking up.

“[It’s] pretty special what we see today,” Rojas said, “that the bullpen actually … gives us an opportunity to be there in the ninth, and Trevor coming back and throwing those six innings right there. A lot of good things that we can actually take from these games. But at the end of the day, we're not winning. And it's frustrating. And I wish I could do more.”