Rogers' rotation bid off to strong start

Young lefty retires 6 of 7 Astros, touches 96 mph, flashes sharp slider

March 5th, 2021

JUPITER, Fla. -- Marlins rotation candidate made a strong impression in his Spring Training debut on Friday afternoon at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. Rogers, the organization's ninth-ranked prospect in 2020 per MLB Pipeline, pitched two scoreless frames in Miami's 1-0, seven-inning win over Houston.

The 23-year-old Rogers set the tone with a 94.9-mph fastball that Carlos Correa sent to right field for a flyout on the game's first pitch. Over the course of a 29-pitch appearance, the left-hander's velocity had separation, with a range between 96.2 mph and 82.5 mph. Rogers also returned to what he does best -- letting his fastball work, throwing left-on-left changeups and mixing in the slider. According to Statcast, his four-seam fastball had elite horizontal movement and his changeup had elite vertical movement in 2020.

"I felt really good," Rogers said during a Zoom call. "The main thing is all my pitches were working. Felt really good coming out of the hand. The slider had a nice bite to it. I could throw it out of the zone. The changeup had good depth to it. The fastball was riding well in the zone. Overall, felt really good for the first time out."

After retiring the side in order in the first, Rogers worked around a leadoff walk in the second. He struck out three batters -- all on his slider, which he threw five times. According to Statcast, Rogers used his slider as a putaway pitch just 12.8 percent of the time in 2020, third lowest among his four offerings.

"I've been working on my slider, going back to alternate site last summer," Rogers said. "Been really working on it, busting my butt trying to get it better and really happy with that. Just another weapon in my arsenal."

Something else Rogers is working on is attacking the zone rather than trying to be too perfect. It stems from a tough lesson he learned on Sept. 21 against the Braves. In that start, Miami gave him a three-run lead before he took the mound, only for him to cough up three runs. But Rogers finished that outing on a positive note, striking out the final six batters he faced. It was in times like those that Rogers found himself pitching to a hitter's weakness. On Friday, 19 of his pitches went for strikes.

This first look was key for Rogers, who is vying for a spot in the rotation along with fellow prospects Nick Neidert (two scoreless innings on Friday), Braxton Garrett, Daniel Castano and Rule 5 Draft pick Paul Campbell. Miami also added veteran southpaw Gio González to the mix on a Minor League deal Thursday.

In anticipation of that battle, Rogers gained 5-7 pounds over the offseason, stopping long-distance runs four times a week and crushing calories with the help of pizza, pasta, protein shakes and smoothies. His hope was to build muscle so that he could be strong over a full season. Two months ago while on the Marlins Hot Stove Show with and radio broadcaster Kyle Sielaff, Rogers stated his goal in 2021 was to make the big league club and show the organization that he is here to stay in The Show.

During his rookie campaign in 2020, Rogers went 1-2 with a 6.11 ERA in seven starts, but he showed flashes of dominance with 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings. His ERA was 3.96 ERA minus that outing against Atlanta. For these reasons and more, the Marlins are bullish on the 6-foot-5 Rogers.

"I think last year was really good for Trevor," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said during a Zoom call. "He had some good outings, he got roughed up a little bit at times, but I think really good for him. And he is one of the guys that he's got a good understanding of who he is. This guy's going to be good. It's just good to see him take advantage of that time last year, go to work in the offseason, come back in here aggressive, but [with the] mindset knowing what he has to do to be successful here."