DENVER -- Rockies rookie infielder Brendan Rodgers hit the weight room during the shutdown and emerged with bigger muscles -- to match big dreams that weren’t daunted by his unsuccessful and painful Major League debut in 2019.
Last season, Rodgers -- the team’s top prospect per MLB Pipeline – appeared in 25 games over two callups, but he managed just a .224 average and saw his year end with surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. But a determined offseason, and good use of shutdown time, has made Rodgers a likely presence on the Opening Day roster, with opportunities dependent on his early production as a role player.
“The overall goal is not to prove, but to show, what I’m capable of, and that’s helping this team win,” said Rodgers, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft.
The primary right side of the infield is Daniel Murphy at first base and Ryan McMahon at second. An option, however, is to let McMahon slide to first when Murphy serves as designated hitter.
That means opportunity at second, where Rodgers could play, but Chris Owings and Garrett Hampson have more experience. Whether it’s occasional starts or in-game strategy moves, Rodgers figures to get a chance to translate the bat he showed at Triple-A Albuquerque last year (.350, 9 HR, 21 RBIs in 37 games) when he wasn’t struggling in the Majors.
Rodgers, who turns 24 on Aug. 9, was already in fighting-back shape when he arrived at Spring Training.
He was a month ahead of projections and had made himself a candidate for the Opening Day roster. When camp in Scottsdale, Ariz., was halted, he went home to Orlando, Fla., where he joined Rockies catcher Drew Butera for workouts, with strength coach Jeff Higuera, and helped mentor Zac Veen, an outfielder whom the Rockies drafted ninth overall in the 2020 MLB Draft.
“That extra time worked out in my favor,” said Rodgers, who weighed in at 210 pounds after the added muscle and the subtracted bad weight were assessed. “I really got to it in the gym on my shoulder -- anything upper body, obviously, trying to strengthen my shoulder, get it as strong as it was pre-surgery.
“I just had fun lifting weights. … At the end of the day, I came out of it a lot stronger than usual.”
Manager Bud Black has commented on Rodgers’ of-the-field maturity. There also isn’t the overswinging that can come with a player trying to make an impression. His hits through Summer Camp, including Sunday's to center field off Jon Gray, have been controlled swings using the middle of the field. Rodgers also has moved to shortstop and third base.
“With Brendan, he’s swinging the bat great,” Black said. “He got into some games in Spring Training 1 as DH, while his arm was coming around. So now the three months of off-time, he was able to get his arm into position where he is able to play the field on a regular basis.”
Rodgers said the personal goals he came into 2020 with were rendered moot after the coronavirus reduced the season from 162 games to 60. All that’s left is an attitude he hopes will lead to impact when his opportunities come.
“The motto I’ve kind of been living by is: Don’t get ready; I stay ready,” Rodgers said. “I learned that during the quarantine.
“I was working five or six days a week on baseball and weight training. I think it’s all going to pay off.”