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Rox callup Rodgers nets RBI in 1st MLB at-bat

Valaika optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque; McGee returns
@harding_at_mlb
May 18, 2019

PHILADELPHIA -- A simplified offensive approach earned Brendan Rodgers, MLB Pipeline's No. 1 Rockies prospect, a promotion to the Majors -- as well as the start at second base and the seventh spot in the batting order -- on Friday night at Philadelphia. Rodgers wasted no time adding to his

PHILADELPHIA -- A simplified offensive approach earned Brendan Rodgers, MLB Pipeline's No. 1 Rockies prospect, a promotion to the Majors -- as well as the start at second base and the seventh spot in the batting order -- on Friday night at Philadelphia.

Rodgers wasted no time adding to his stat sheet, recording the first RBI of his Major League career with a fielder's-choice grounder to first base in the top of the second inning. The play, which was challenged by the Phillies because of a disputed tag but was ruled to stand, gave Colorado a 1-0 lead. Rodgers finished 0-for-4 as the Rockies went on to lose, 5-4.

Rodgers, 22, started the season at Triple-A Albuquerque slowly. Rather than search all around for answers, he found them within -- or at least within his phone.

“I went back, watched old video of low-A, high-A, even Double-A, Spring Training, to see what I was doing, see how simple I was,” said Rodgers, a right-handed hitter who was in the lineup against Phillies left-hander Cole Irvin.

By the time the call to the Majors came, which Rodgers received while playing Fortnite to relax following a 12-day road trip, he had proven that simple is best. Rodgers batted .356 with nine home runs and 21 RBIs in 35 games for Albuquerque.

The Rockies optioned right-handed infielder Pat Valaika to Albuquerque to make room for Rodgers.

Rodgers' complete Minor League stats

After a quiet start during which he “wasn’t putting up the power numbers and the damage that I wanted to,” Rodgers worked with Albuquerque hitting coach Tim Doherty on pitch selection. He had spent the offseason addressing the same issue, which didn’t crop up until he faced higher-level pitching in Major League Spring Training 2018 and at the end of last season at Albuquerque, after he had a big season at Double-A Hartford.

This season, Rodgers has put it all together, batting .382 (42-for-110) with a 1.152 OPS and eight home runs since April 11.

“Usually, for me, it’s the little things,” Rodgers said. “Whether I’m lunging, jumping, drifting, whatever it may be, it’s usually something very small. It usually doesn’t have anything to do with my swing. I’ve had the same swing, honestly, since I was 10, 12 years old.”

The challenge for Rodgers is to hit like the carefree youngster who became the Rockies’ top pick in the 2015 MLB Draft, only with a full development process behind him. In addition to the offensive assignments, Rodgers spent the early part of this season refining his play at second base. He was drafted as a shortstop and took to third base easily, but second took a little longer.

“He played well and did a lot of the things that we talked about at the end of Spring Training, so I feel he’s in a good spot to help us win,” manager Bud Black said.

McGee is back; will the strikeout come with him?

Lefty reliever Jake McGee returned Friday from a left knee sprain, which occurred after his second appearance of the season. Righty reliever DJ Johnson was optioned to Albuquerque.

When he's at his best, McGee can beat bats with his fastball. He has averaged as many as 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings (with the Rays in 2012). After a down 2018 (2-4, 6.49 ERA in 61 appearances), McGee worked to regain velocity and action on his fastball, and in brief action before the injury, he struck out three in 2 1/3 innings.

“In my last [injury rehab] outing, I went one-plus [inning] and was mostly 93-94 mph, and that was an 11 o’clock start in Fresno, so it was a little hard to get adrenaline,” McGee said.

The bullpen has been generally solid for Colorado, but the strikeouts have been lacking. The Rockies rank 28th in the Majors in strikeout percentage at .201, 29th in strikeouts per nine innings at 7.25 and, somewhat concerningly, 27th in strikeouts per walk at 1.85. Righty setup man Carlos Estevez is the only Rockies pitcher in the top 50 in the Majors in strikeouts per nine at 12.36, although closer Wade Davis and injured lefty Harrison Musgrave are above the top 80 at 10.8.

More rehab for Rusin

The Rockies decided to continue the rehab assignment for lefty Chris Rusin (mid-back strain), who joined Double-A Hartford to throw two innings Saturday and could throw another two innings early next week.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and like his Facebook page.