Rogers back in ROY race, pitching for family

September 5th, 2021

MIAMI -- After a month-long absence from the mound, All-Star left-hander returned to his sanctuary and wrote out “mom” and the initials for his late grandfathers before his first pitch on Saturday night.

Rogers last appeared in the big leagues on July 31 against the Yankees, then missed time on the family medical emergency, bereavement and restricted lists. During that span, both of his parents tested positive for COVID-19, with his mother Colleen spending nearly three weeks in the hospital after catching pneumonia. She was on a ventilator for almost two weeks before coming home, where she's feeling much improved but remains on oxygen and receives physical therapy to build up her strength. Rogers also lost both of his grandfathers.

Though he showed some rust, Rogers went 4 1/3 innings and the Marlins rallied with three runs in the eighth for a 3-2 victory over the Phillies at loanDepot park. Lewis Brinson knocked the go-ahead two-run homer with two outs against Archie Bradley to cement a series win over the contending Phils.

“Just put it in perspective what I'm pitching for the last month of the year,” Rogers said of the tribute to his family. “It's been tough. I told my mom I was going to compete for her. She'd been fighting. She fought real hard, and she beat it. So I told her, ‘You wouldn't want me to quit, just like you didn't quit.’ So I came back here with that in my mind, and that I was going to pitch for her and both my grandparents. Hopefully I did them proud.”

Rogers worked around traffic in the first two innings to keep Philadelphia off the scoreboard, but Andrew McCutchen connected on an elevated four-seamer outside of the zone for a solo homer in the fourth. Rogers entered the game with the second-lowest HR/9 rate (0.41) among MLB pitchers with at least 110 innings.

As the 29-pitch fourth progressed, Rogers walked Didi Gregorius with two outs, then committed a throwing error on a pickoff attempt. Following an intentional walk to Ronald Torreyes, opposing pitcher Ranger Suárez sent a two-strike blooper to left for an RBI double.

The 23-year-old Rogers went back out for the fifth, recording one out and permitting one baserunner before being removed after 83 pitches. Zach Pop retired the next two batters, helping Rogers extend his franchise record with 22 consecutive starts of three runs or fewer. Only 12 southpaws have longer streaks in MLB history.

“Not bad,” manager Don Mattingly said. “Honestly, what he's been through over the last month, thought it was a pretty good outing. I think he got a little tired at the end, but in general he threw the ball good.”

Added Brinson on his lockermate: “He was away for a while with a family issue -- you know family comes first -- but I'm glad he's back with us for this last month. I was telling people early in Spring Training this is a guy to watch out for. You guys see what he's doing his rookie year. Hopefully he can pull out the Rookie of the Year Award at the end of the year, but that guy is a bona fide future ace of this club. I love watching him pitch. I love him going out there having that dog mentality when he goes out there. It's really fun to watch.”

Despite being away for over a month, Rogers remains one of the top candidates for the National League Rookie of the Year Award. He entered Saturday pacing his peers in:

fWAR (3.3)
ERA (2.45)
K/9 (10.55)
HR/9 (0.41)

And he was near the top of the leaderboard in wins (7, second), starts (20, tied for third) and innings (110, second).

Rogers is at 114 1/3 innings through 21 MLB starts this year, and he’s thrown another 8 1/3 frames in two rehab outings. Should the Marlins use their remaining four off-days to give their rotation a breather, Rogers would have five more starts to close out his campaign.

“My goal each and every time out is to help this team win and just compete,” Rogers said. “I know I was out a month. I know that Rookie of the Year is still there, so I would be lying if [I said] I'm not pitching for that. That's definitely in the back of my mind. I want to compete for that. Let it fall where it may. I've had a good year, and I want to keep it on that trajectory and finish the season strong.”