Working with extra rest, Rogers 'out of sync'

June 24th, 2021

MIAMI -- The baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint. It's also a balancing act for the Marlins, who are doing their best to protect their young starting pitching after an abbreviated 2020.

Rookie left-hander didn’t look as sharp a week in between starts in Wednesday night’s 3-1 loss to the Blue Jays at loanDepot park. Starling Marte homered, but Miami has scored just two runs during its three-game skid, as the club fell to a season-low 11 games below .500.

Rogers allowed a season-high-tying three runs on five hits, with two walks and six strikeouts. The Marlins were down 2-0 five batters into the game following a Bo Bichette single, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. walk, Teoscar Hernández RBI double and George Springer RBI groundout.

"Felt out of sync a little bit," said Rogers, who threw a pair of bullpen sessions between his outings. "Today was going on my eighth day. Extra jitters, extra adrenaline. It's been a week and some change since my last time out. Adrenaline definitely pumping, just out of sync a little bit, made some good pitches."

Entering Wednesday, Rogers had the following splits when it comes to rest:

Four days (regular): 1.57 ERA in eight starts
Five days: 1.75 ERA in four starts
Six-plus days: 3.60 ERA in two starts

The 23-year-old permitted at least two baserunners in three of his five innings on Wednesday, though he did strike out the side in the fifth to finish his 83-pitch outing strong. Rogers' average spin rate was down on all three of his pitches -- fastball (-59), slider (-238), changeup (-289), though his fastball velocity (94.6 mph) fell in line with his season average.

Manager Don Mattingly said that the long-limbed Rogers gets into trouble when his mechanics are a bit off -- his hands don’t sync with the start of his leg lift on his delivery -- therefore leading to a lack of sharpness. What’s encouraging is how quick he is able to make in-game corrections.

“I think the adjustments are the things that are going to continue to get better all the time,” Mattingly said. “A kid that's going to be able to call his own game, knows what he wants to do and be able to feel the things that we talk about. When [pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr.’s] able to give him one little key, he understands what’s going on with that.”

Earlier this month, Stottlemyre said that Rogers has a 170-175-innings limit this season. He threw just 29 2/3 last season, including the playoffs, and his career high is 136 1/3 frames between two Minor League levels in '19. With Wednesday’s outing, he has thrown 86 2/3 innings in '21.

The organization plans to put Rogers on the front side of the rotation before the All-Star break and on the back end returning from it so that he can have anywhere from 14-15 days off. From that point on, the hope is he won't miss another start. Stottlemyre reiterated that it’s not just about monitoring the number of innings, but also the pitches and taxing nature of them.

“I really would love to try to find a way to make sure he makes all his starts without having to send him out,” Stottlemyre had said. “There might come a point in time that we give him a little break, and that little break would be 10 days, and take him away from his starts and throw some bullpens and just give him a little bit of a breather.”

By pushing Wednesday's start back, Rogers has one fewer than Sandy Alcantara, who has a more experienced arm. This is being done to protect the two-time reigning National League Rookie of the Month, who also will get an extra day of rest with Monday’s off-day.

Marlins starting pitchers entered Wednesday with a 3.11 ERA, the third-lowest mark in the Majors. The trio of Alcantara, Pablo López and Rogers were even better with a 2.38 ERA. When Rogers struck out Hernández for his 100th strikeout of 2021 in the fifth inning, he became the fifth Marlins pitcher to do so in his first 15 games of a season, and the first rookie. It is vital that Miami protects its starters for the future success of the organization.

“This is definitely hard, being a competitor,” Rogers said. “I want to go out there every five days. You just get into that routine, bullpen third day, get my arm care in, do what I've got to do to get refreshed and ready. But I definitely appreciate them looking long term and giving me a few extra days. Mel told me, 'We don't want you limping into September, August,' so really looking at the long term. Really just got to think things through. Still got the second half of the season to go, so just take my off-days when I get them and just try to maintain my routine.”