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Prospect Rogers makes jump to Triple-A Toledo

Injury updates on pitching prospects Funkhouser, Burrows
@beckjason
May 14, 2019

DETROIT -- Jake Rogers has the defensive and pitch-calling skills to catch in the big leagues right now, some in the Tigers organization believe. The main thing keeping him at Double-A Erie had been his hitting. With a hot start at the plate, he’s making the jump to Triple-A Toledo.

DETROIT -- Jake Rogers has the defensive and pitch-calling skills to catch in the big leagues right now, some in the Tigers organization believe. The main thing keeping him at Double-A Erie had been his hitting. With a hot start at the plate, he’s making the jump to Triple-A Toledo.

The promotion became official on Tuesday before the Tigers' 11-4 loss to the Astros. A day before Justin Verlander starts against the Tigers at Comerica Park for the second time since his 2017 trade, Rogers -- the Tigers’ No. 13 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline -- becomes the second prospect from that trade to reach Toledo, joining outfielder Daz Cameron.

“It’s crazy,” Rogers said on a Tuesday afternoon conference call with reporters. “It’s great. Just climbing that ladder means everything. It’s one step closer to the ultimate dream of getting to Detroit. It means everything right now, being able to play with these guys and play at this level and play against the talent that we’re going to be playing is going to be fun.”

Rogers has been in Erie for all but two games of his Tigers organizational tenure. He was there throughout the 2018 season, batting .219 (77-for-352) with 17 home runs and 56 RBIs but striking out 112 times with 41 walks. Coaches and instructors worked with him to tweak his approach to hit for more contact rather than for launch angle, and a midseason stretch showed signs of progress. He hit .281 with five homers, 16 RBIs and a 1.004 OPS in June of last year. After a bumpy July, he hit .266 with five homers, 13 RBIs and an .857 OPS in August.

Defensively, Rogers was outstanding, throwing out 50 of 90 would-be basestealers while recording a .995 fielding percentage His lone blemish was 11 passed balls.

The Tigers sent him to the Arizona Fall League hoping to build on that progress against top-level competition, but an 8-for-48 campaign there led him back to Erie to begin this year. After working with Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon and assistant Phil Clark in big league camp for most of Spring Training to reduce unnecessary movement in his swing and improve his look at pitches, the difference was noticeable.

“Just really seeing pitches well, swinging at good pitches, not chasing out of the zone,” Rogers said. “Really focusing in on my routine and just picking out good pitches to hit and hitting them hard.”

Rogers leaves Erie batting .302 (26-for-86) with three doubles, a triple, five home runs and 21 RBIs. While he has struck out 26 times, his 19 walks have resulted in a .429 on-base percentage. His .963 OPS ranks fifth among Eastern League hitters.

His defensive and game-calling skills, meanwhile, remained strong, a major plus for the Tigers with highly rated prospects Casey Mize, Matt Manning and Alex Faedo all in Erie with the SeaWolves. He was behind the plate for Mize’s 98-pitch no-hitter on April 29, and his scramble home from third base on a groundout to first accounted for the game’s lone run.

“Catching those guys -- especially Faedo, Mize, Manning – those guys are fun,” Rogers said. “It’s easy to be back there when those guys have the stuff they have. It’s easy calling a game, and it really helped me out as a catcher, learning how they call it, what they want to throw in certain counts. It really excelled me as well.”

Rogers’ promotion reunites him with a few other pitching prospects in Toledo. Beau Burrows was a batterymate throughout last season in Erie, while Kyle Funkhouser and Matt Hall spent the first half of last season with the SeaWolves. Burrows and Funkhouser are on the injured list in Toledo.

Speaking of Funkhouser

While the Tigers continue to search for starting pitching depth in the wake of four injuries in their rotation, they could soon get help from Funkhouser. The Tigers’ No. 11 prospect played catch from 120 feet on Monday, general manager Al Avila told Fox Sports Detroit. Funkhouser is on track to return from the injured list soon.

Moreover, Avila said he expects Funkhouser -- sidelined with a right shoulder impingement -- will be able to help the Tigers' pitching staff at some point this summer.

“We'll get him pitching very shortly,” Avila told Fox Sports Detroit. “We expect him to make a full recovery and soon enough he'll be able to help us here this year at the big league level.”

Burrows, the Tigers’ No. 6 prospect, will apparently take a little longer. He went on the injured list at the start of May with right biceps tendinitis. Avila said the former first-round pick will go through a pitching program at the Tigers’ Spring Training facility in Lakeland before getting back to action.

“So far, all the MRIs and everything [say] there's no structural damage,” Avila told FSD. “It's just more soreness and inflammation and just trying to get it under control and look at the long term.”

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.