Tampa, FL- Josh Rogers has rapidly risen through the minors, after being drafted just one year ago. It was hello, Staten Island (Short-A) for his professional debut and, by August, he was promoted to Class-A Charleston.
This year, it was all very similar. He began with Charleston but was moved up to High-A Tampa at the end of April. The jumps are happening fast, and Rogers has done well. But there were growing pains for the twenty-one-year-old.
“I felt I had a good off-season and hit the ground running. When I got here, I hit a few road bumps,” Rogers said, the day before he made his NUMBER start. “May wasn’t a very good month for me. In June, I told myself this is a new month. And I’ve taken what I’ve learned so far and had a good adjustment period.”
In 5 starts in June, he posted a 0.92 ERA, through 29 innings of work. The lefty pitched a complete game shutout on June 27th, allowing just 3 hits and striking out six Brevard County Manatees hitters.
The main focus of his current work with Tampa pitching coach Tim Norton is improving the quality of the changeup. He’s confident throwing it, he said, but simply needs to make it better in order for it to be a more effective offering; part of that’s been tinkering with various grips.
“He’s really made some growth with the pitch,” said Norton. It seems like a few days ago, something really clicked for him. In playing catch on a daily basis, it’s been consistent. He’s been pretty good with it, but he carries some glove-side with it a little bit. He seems to be really taking to this new little adjustment with it. Sometimes that’s all it takes. It’s looking promising.
Rogers is more comfortable with throwing it, and feels more able to get guys out with it in any count.
“I’ve been working on that pitch every single day. It feels that it’s come a long way since Spring Training,” he said.
He was drafted in the 11th round by the Yankees in 2015 out of the University of Louisville, and his professional debut in Staten Island was a trial by fire; he was piggybacking every fifth day, coming out of the bullpen. The role was unfamiliar to him and he had to take a different approach. As any pitcher will tell you, the roles are completely different mentally and in the physical preparation.
“I got hit around a little bit when I went up to Charleston. You can’t really establish the fastball early, I had to rely on the breaking stuff early. But getting my feet wet was good,” Rogers said.
Rogers has spent a lot of time working with Norton on making adjustments. He was quick to the plate in college, but as a professional, he needed to alter his delivery some, and also possibly add a few ticks to his velocity.
“I’m staying back on the rubber a little bit longer. I’m working on getting more power through my front side. Trying to have more power in my delivery,” said Rogers.
Norton describes Rogers as a command guy who has to get good at mixing up his pitches. If he’s going to keep hitters off balance, he’s got to keep improving that approach. “He’s had to adjust that extremely quick approach to the plate. It’s messed with his timing a little bit, in getting used to what we’re doing. But he’s going to be ok and he’s coming around,” Norton said. “He’s had games where he’s been really good, and other games where he’s searching a little bit. Lately, he’s been searching a touch.”
Rogers acknowledged as much, saying he’s putting in extra daily work. He’s excited about heading to his first playoffs with Tampa. But he said what matters most to him is getting better as a pitcher before seasons’ end. The search continues.