Jolly Rogers sails, slides through Fish in loss

Left-hander experiments with pitching motion, new slider grip from Corbin

September 15th, 2021

WASHINGTON -- The unique delivery began one day during a bullpen session, a rocking motion locked into while moving around on the mound.

“Man, this feels good for me,” Rogers recounted thinking.

Three starts into his tenure with the Nationals, the standout windup is helping Rogers stand out on his new team. He threw five innings while allowing one hit, one walk, two hit batters and recording six strikeouts over 73 pitches (44 strikes) in the Nats’ 8-6 loss to the Marlins at Nationals Park on Wednesday afternoon.

Rogers exited the game with a 2-0 lead, but the bullpen allowed eight runs in the final four innings, including a go-ahead two-run homer by Jesús Sánchez off Kyle Finnegan in the ninth.

After forging a two-year comeback from Tommy John surgery to get back to the Major Leagues, Rogers has posted a 2.60 ERA over three starts, including Wednesday's outing against the Marlins.

“I've always been a ‘work fast’ kind of guy,” Rogers said. “I anchor my foot differently now. My foot started preset into the rubber, so instead of having that turn-in movement that everybody has, I’m just already doing it. I’m basically doing the same thing, but in a different fashion, I guess.”

Rogers executes his pitches with several variations of the motion, each one organic to the moment. 

“I’m just going straight off feel,” he said. “Whenever I get the sign, whenever I’m ready to go, I go. I think it’s kind of worked in my favor throughout the whole year. I don’t know if it’s really the answer. I don’t know if that’s why guys aren’t timed up or anything like that. It’s just something that’s been working for me, and I’m going to keep rolling with it.”

The 27-year-old left-hander has tallied 12 strikeouts to five walks in 17 1/3 innings since making his Nationals debut on Sept. 4. But he isn’t going to rely on visual deception to make him successful. Rogers has sought out the advice of fellow southpaw Patrick Corbin to enhance his pitch mix with his slider. The pair discussed grip, pressure points and feel during pregame workouts on Monday. 

“If that could be his swing-and-miss pitch or his strikeout pitch, that could only help him,” Corbin said. “He competes, he’s in the zone a lot, throws a lot of strikes, works fast. You can tell guys like playing behind him. He kind of has that attitude out there, like he doesn’t really care and he’s going to come after you.”

In his start on Wednesday, Rogers delivered 49 percent fastballs, 37 percent sliders and 14 percent changeups. His slider, which he got going early in his outing, yielded 11 swings and five whiffs. 

“Literally, I’ve never tried it before,” Rogers said of Corbin’s slider grip. “I just said I’m going to take a risk and try it today, and it was pretty good. It worked out. [I] didn’t have as great of a feel for it, like throwing it for strikes, but just took a chance with it and got some swings early and felt good about it.” 

Though Rogers’ time with the Nationals is in its early stages, the regular season is winding down. He is looking to attack hitters in the zone and continue to have confidence in his fastball in the remainder of his outings. 

“So far, so good,” manager Dave Martinez said. “Nothing seems to rattle him. He goes out there, and it seems like he’s under control. … I like what I’ve seen.”