WASHINGTON -- One start wasn’t guaranteed this season. By September, six could have seemed like a stretch. But after being out of the Major Leagues for more than two years, left-hander Josh Rogers took an opportunity and ran with it on the Nationals.
“It's been a crazy year for me,” Rogers said.
In his final start of the season on Friday against the Red Sox, Rogers tossed six innings while allowing seven hits, four runs, three walks and recording three strikeouts in a 4-2 loss at Nationals Park. He held Boston scoreless through five innings before allowing back-to-back home runs to Hunter Renfroe and Bobby Dalbec.
“That’s a lineup you can't just keep turning it over, especially with a guy like myself,” Rogers said. “I hate that I walked three guys tonight; that was terrible. But I was attacking the zone early, my stuff felt really good through those first five innings.”
With an uptempo pace, a unique delivery and an exuberance for the game, Rogers made a case to be considered for a role in 2022. The 27-year-old went 2-2 with a 3.28 ERA, 22 strikeouts and a 1.29 WHIP across 35 2/3 innings on the season.
“I like the way he works, and he’s going to go out there and give you everything he’s got,” manager Dave Martinez said. “He’s not afraid of throwing the ball over the plate, which is kind of nice. … I liked what I’ve seen. He’s given us a breath of fresh air. He’s got so much energy.”
Rogers’ big league career was sidetracked in 2019 during his second season with the Orioles. He underwent his second Tommy John surgery that summer, spent the following year rehabbing and was released by Baltimore on June 1 after four starts in Triple-A. The Nationals signed him to a Minor League deal days later, and he grinded his way to a Sept. 4 callup. Rogers has been in the starting rotation ever since then.
“He’s been awesome,” Martinez said. “He’s been an unbelievable teammate, fun to be around, really enjoys doing what he does -- and that’s pitch and compete. I couldn’t ask for anything more. He worked hard to get back up to the big leagues, and he got up here and he showed us that he wants to be here.”
This offseason, Rogers aims to “crisp up” all of his pitches. The Nationals will look for him to hone in on his changeup slider, which Martinez described as “really good.” Rogers also wants to gain 10 to 12 pounds to stay durable after losing weight last winter, and Martinez would like him to get stronger in his lower half.
With those to-dos, Rogers will head to West Palm Beach, Fla., vying for a spot in the Nationals' rotation.
“It’s going to be a conversation this winter,” Martinez said. “He’s going to come to Spring Training and he’s going to fight for a job in Spring Training.”
And just like that, Rogers’ narrative has shifted from grinding to make it back to the Major Leagues to competing for a job as a starting pitcher.
“I’m proud of myself for how far I've come,” Rogers said. “I made every single start and appearance this year, I felt healthy, I put myself in the position to do so. … All in all, I think it was a good season for me. I'm going to head into the offseason and work on things and make sure I come into camp ready to go.”