Trevor Rogers' Long Wait Finally Ends
GREENSBORO, N.C.—Trevor Rogers’ professional debut was a long, long time coming. Three hundred and forty-four days passed between the moment commissioner Rob Manfred called his name on the MLB Network stage in Secaucus, N.J. until he threw his first pitch at Greensboro’s First National Bank Field on Tuesday, making him the second to last player from the first round of the 2017 draft to make his pro debut.
The Yankees’ Clarke Schmidt is the only one left, and he had Tommy John surgery shortly before turning pro. Rogers, too, dealt with injuries that kept him from getting his first outing out of the way.
“It was a forearm strain,” said Rogers, who was the No. 13 overall pick by the Marlins in last year's draft. "I kind of worked myself back a little bit too quick because I wanted to get back throwing in games again. I tried to work myself a little bit too quickly and my forearm flared up.”
Rogers would have been set to go in instructional league last fall, but Hurricane Irma washed away the entire season. That lack of activity also led to the Marlins holding Rogers back in extended spring training before sending him to Greensboro this spring.
Once he joined the team, Rogers finally began to see an end to what had become an agonizing wait.
“I wasn’t too jittery at the beginning of the day, but I started to slowly count down the hours to minutes and then my heart slowly starting pounding,” he said. “Then I came out to the field and warmed up and it progressively got worse out there. After that second or third pitch, I was back where I needed to go.”
His first pitch was a 93 mph fastball that drew a swing and a miss from Kannapolis leadoff man Luis Gonzalez and, just like that, the seal was broken. Rogers finished the at-bat with another swing and miss, this time on a 95 mph fastball to put his first professional strikeout in the books.
Rogers whiffed the next man, too, but things quickly got dicey. He issued a two-out walk to Craig Dedelow, then gave up run-scoring hits to the next two hitters. He finished the inning with a 12-pitch strikeout of Kannapolis catcher Evan Skoug, with a wild pitch and a balk thrown in as well.
He threw 37 pitches in the first inning—three fewer than the Marlins’ limit for pitches in an inning before a removal from the game becomes mandatory. Instead, he threw two more innings and allowed three runs (all earned) on four hits and two walks while striking out five.
He used all three pitches in his arsenal, starting with a fastball that sat between 92-94 mph and touched 95 in his first two innings before dipping to 88-92 mph in his final frame. He complemented his fastball with a sharp slider in the low 80s and an inconsistent changeup in the upper 80s. He struck out four hitters with his fastball and added a fifth on a slider.
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Overall, Greensboro pitching coach Mark DiFelice was pleased with what he saw from the newest member of his staff.
“For it being his first professional game, I think he stayed poised. He did have the balk and I think he was sped up a little bit, but I think he commanded his fastball in the strike zone and slowed the game down when he needed to,” DiFelice said. “He ran into some deep counts tonight with his pitch count and all, but for it being his first professional outing I liked what I saw from his fastball and secondary pitches.”
When he couldn’t pitch, Rogers spent most of his time at the Marlins’ minor league complex in Jupiter, Fla. There, he worked to sharpen his mental game to help himself handle both the long layoff and the daily stresses of pro ball once he got the OK to pitch again.
“It was more on the mental side, taking it day by day knowing that one day I would be healthy and actually able to play pro ball,” he said.
After nearly a year of waiting, that day has finally come.