Rogers shows poise after Mattingly’s pep talk

April 6th, 2021

MIAMI -- After Marlins left-hander opened his season by walking four batters in an inning, manager Don Mattingly had an unorthodox pep talk for the rookie.

"'Take a deep breath,' and, 'I think that there's no way your year can get any worse from that inning,'" Mattingly recalled on a Zoom call. "That was about as bad as it gets in that first for him. Everything that could go wrong did. 'Just go throw zeros the rest of the way. Go shut them down, keep us there. We'll get back in this game.' So he did a nice job I think of composing himself. I think it tells you a lot about the kid. He's going to be really good."

The light moment helped Rogers find his groove after a three-run first, but Miami's bats couldn't muster enough offense to get him off the hook in a 4-1 loss to St. Louis on Monday night at loanDepot park.

Miami's seventh-ranked prospect had trouble syncing up mechanically and dialing down his emotions during the 38-pitch, 18-strike opening frame. Though his four-seam velocity reached a career-high 98 mph on ball four to Paul DeJong, Rogers threw 13 of his 22 fastballs for balls. In 2020, the pitch averaged 93.6 mph, with a maximum velo of 96.2 mph. Following his chat with Mattingly, he turned the page by commanding the zone.

"I think just getting quick," Rogers said during a Zoom call. "First game with fans. Little amped up. Had a real tough time just trying to calm myself down. Probably the main thing I was just trying to strike them out on the first pitch, which is not possible. So that's probably the big thing is trying to slow down and allow my arm to catch up."

It was a somewhat familiar scene for Rogers, who walked five in his MLB debut last August. He didn't allow a run that day, and went on to issue two or fewer walks in each of his next six starts in 2020. This time around, a passed ball scored one run and Yadier Molina's two-out double to straightaway center drove in another two after getting Starling Marte turned around.

Versatile reliever John Curtiss began warming up during the frame, something the Marlins wanted to avoid with Elieser Hernandez landing on the injured list and top prospect Sixto Sánchez experiencing a setback at the alternate training site last week. Prior to Monday’s opener, Miami recalled right-handed prospects Nick Neidert -- who would slot into the rotation barring another starter being pulled early -- and Jordan Holloway to shore up the bullpen.

Mattingly called it a shot in the arm to get two perfect innings from Holloway, who didn't arrive at the ballpark until 5 p.m. ET for a 6:40 start because of rush-hour traffic. He had made the drive down from the alternate training site in Jacksonville, Fla.

"It was awesome," Holloway said during a Zoom call. "I wanted to keep myself under control as much as possible, but obviously running in there, even when I got here today, seeing fans for the first time was unbelievable. Haven't felt that in a long time, and it was really pleasing to see everybody out there. That was awesome. I just wanted to get on the mound and do what I needed to do as fast as possible, but be in control of myself as well."

Rogers settling down also helped the banged-up pitching staff. Monday will be another teachable moment for the 23-year-old southpaw, who often cites his Sept. 21, 2020, start in Atlanta as a lesson in bouncing back from a rough first inning. In the series opener against the Cardinals, he needed just 39 pitches over the next three scoreless frames and finished with six strikeouts -- four on the heater he couldn’t command early on. According to Baseball Savant, Rogers collected 17 swings and misses -- second most among Monday’s MLB pitchers.

"I'm ready to go back out again already,” Rogers said. “I love the moment, I love competing, and I was finally getting going and Don said, ‘Hey, you're done.’ Could've pitched better. I could avoid those situations to pitch longer, but we're [in] game four and we've got 158 more games.”