Detroit Tigers’ Jake Rogers looking forward to AJ Hinch’s tutelage
Detroit – Being managed by a former catcher can be pretty hellish for a catcher.
“It’s a blessing and a curse,” said Tiger’s skipper and former big league catcher AJ Hinch last month. “The blessing is that we have a lot of specialist knowledge and a great feeling for the position. The bad news is that we have a lot of expertise and a feel for the position. “
Blessing and curse? Jake Rogers says put it on.
“It’s going to be great, he’s eye-catching,” said Rogers, the Tigers’ top prospect, who will compete against recently signed veterans Wilson Ramos and Grayson Greiner this spring. “He’s going to be tough on me and I wouldn’t expect less.
“He’ll be tough on me and I’ll probably enjoy it a little too much. I hope he gets on me a bit. This is how you learn. “
There’s probably not much Hinch can do to make things harder for Rogers than there has been for years. Rogers was taken over by Houston in the Justin Verlander deal, called up to the major leagues before he finished in 2019, and fought fiercely both on the record (51 strikeouts in 128 record appearances) and behind the record (nine balls passed). and that was just a precursor to 2020.
“It was tough,” Rogers said during a Zoom call Wednesday. “What I’ve learned the most is that things are out of your control. I’ve always played on that, but it’s really like that – you can’t control what you can’t control. “
Like a global pandemic. Like baseball shutting down with two weeks of spring training left. When the Tigers were so repentant of sending him into the fire too early in 2019, they decided not to call him at all last season.
Rogers, trying to adapt to a major swing shift, played intrasquad games at the alternate location in Toledo for two and a half months. He wasn’t even called to the taxi. Suboptimal year of development.
“It was definitely weird,” he said. “I would much rather play against other teams or in the big leagues. But it was what it was. I was down there and got a job. We were all down there having fun playing baseball. It was better than sitting at home and doing nothing.
“It wasn’t a wasted year, but I would rather play against teams.”
To his credit, Rogers never felt he was being ousted from the club’s plans. He never complained in public or pouted while in Toledo.
“As long as you are yourself, whatever happens will happen,” said Rogers. “As long as you go out and work hard, things will either happen for you or not. Nobody wanted intrasquad games in Toledo every day. It was definitely tough. But we made the best of it. “
After the season, General Manager Al Avila and later Hinch made it clear that Rogers was still very strong on his 2021 plans.
“Jake will have the opportunity to make an impression,” Hinch had said. “His tools are really good.”
On Tuesday morning, Hinch told reporters on a Zoom call that he could go spring with Greiner and Rogers, but he was hoping the club could add another veteran catcher.
“The more the merrier,” he said.
A few hours later, the Tigers had signed a one-year $ 2 million deal with 33-year-old, two-time all-star Ramos.
But again, if this message emptied Rogers even a little, he didn’t show it. He spent Tuesday in Dallas beating coach Scott Coolbaugh under the busy gaze of the new Tigers.
“It’s out of my control,” he said. “Whoever signs them up, whoever chooses to raise, I just have to be me. Hopefully I can make a name for myself and earn a job. But I definitely have to earn it. It is not given to me. “
The thing is, before the shutdown last spring, Rogers swung the club well. He went 3 for 7 with two homers in five games. He’d worked with California-based punch instructor Doug Latta last winter, recalibrating his setup and swingplane, and reducing his kick and take-off angle.
Joe Vavra, Tiger’s 2020 punch coach, kept Latta’s program going with Rogers, and Mike Hessman worked with him in Toledo. Rogers has also trained with Latta this off-season.
“Actually, I feel better than ever,” he said. “I train four and five days a week and score on the field. Everything feels normal. If we started in a couple of weeks I’d be ready. Even next week. “
It is tempting to see this as a source for Rogers. He’s entering his 26-year season, which means he’s roughly out of the prospect pool. But it doesn’t look like the tigers see it that way. They signed veteran Ramos for just a year. Second-round selection Dillon Dingler is at least two years away from a serious push.
And once the Tigers have learned something from the James McCann saga, catchers usually take longer than most other positional players to develop. McCann found his move in his 29-year season after five seasons in Detroit.
For all the Tigers hope, Rogers will score well enough to spend most, if not all, of 2021 in the major leagues, sharing the fishing burden with Ramos. If that doesn’t happen, another 400 or so competitive bats at Triple-A Toledo wouldn’t be the worst for him after what he went through last year.
“When I go to spring training I know I have to earn it,” said Rogers. “It will all work out by itself. I just have to hold my nose to the grindstone and move on. “