'I was ready for it:' Tigers raise the curtain on the Jake Rogers experience
Anaheim, Calif. — Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire hinted at this on Sunday in Seattle.
He emerged from a long teleconference with general manager Al Avila and his front office staff and said, “We are throwing ideas around. We don’t just want to stand here and take this. No one does. But it is what it is right now. We are working on it.”
The Tigers, slogging through two miserable months, needed an infusion of fresh energy, fresh blood. With the Wednesday afternoon trade deadline fast approaching with dwindling hopes of making a splash, they decided to dip into their prospect pool for that jolt.
Ready or not, Jake Rogers, the No. 7-rated prospect in the system, is now the Tigers’ primary catcher.
“We’ll mix and match, but he’s going to play most of the time — that’s a given,” Gardenhire said. “That’s why we brought him up here. I would not do it any other way. If we were going to have to sit him two or three days a week, nah.
“He’s going to be our catcher and we’ll see how it goes.”
Rogers becomes the first of the three players acquired in the Justin Verlander trade to make the big leagues. After he struggled offensively last season, the Tigers started him at Double-A Erie this season. He was promoted to Triple-A Toledo on May 14 and over his last 11 games he was hitting .286, slugging .619 with an OPS of .994.
“I was ready for it,” said Rogers, who was given No. 34, James McCann’s old number. “I was excited and ready to be up here and win some ballgames and help this team out. It’s hard to explain. It’s all been a whirlwind.
“But now I am here and I am ready to play.”
Rogers, as Avila and Gardenhire said this spring, was big-league ready defensively two years ago. In five minor-league and fall-league seasons, he’s thrown out 52 percent of base stealers. Between Erie and Toledo this year, he’s thrown out 53 percent.
“He’s got the tools,” Gardenhire said. “We will see how it all plays out up here, but he’s got a chance to be special. Our guys (front office) said he was ready. They decided this and I’m not afraid of any of this. I think it’s great.
“Hopefully he won’t get beat up too much with the bat… But I don’t pass judgment on anybody the first day up here or the second day up here. We’re just going to give him a run at it and see how he does. Just let him play.”
Rogers had an inkling that he might be getting the call when news leaked that veteran catcher Bobby Wilson had been put on waivers. (He cleared and was outrighted to Toledo.) But he didn’t know for sure until Toledo manager Doug Mientkiewicz pulled him aside before their game Monday.
“He brought me over kind of nonchalantly and took me into the tunnel,” Rogers said. “He said, ‘Are you ready to be a big-leaguer?’ I said, ‘Yeah. Is it happening?’ He said yes and I gave him a big hug.’ ”
Rogers, who wasn’t in the Mud Hens lineup Monday, had to compose himself and stay calm throughout the game, but he was mobbed by his teammates afterward. Then he was on an 8 a.m. flight out of Detroit Tuesday.
“I’m a little nervous right now,” he said. “My heart is going a million beats per minute. But it’s the same game. Coming in here, playing with these guys, there’s a lot of familiar faces from spring training. I’m just excited to get going.”
He was thrown right into the fire, jet-lag be damned. He was batting eighth and catching starter Drew VerHagen.
“The big deal is, we’re getting one of our guys up here that we’ve talked an awful lot about,” Gardenhire said. “One of the better catchers, definitely in our organization and in minor-league baseball. It’s exciting to see something like this happen.
“And we’ve been through an awful lot and we’ve talked about injecting some new life in here. We haven’t been playing great. Here’s a start.”
Rogers was already busy poring over the scouting reports and studying the Angels hitters when the clubhouse opened Tuesday. As Gardenhire said, he’ll be getting a lot of schooling over the next few days and his head will be spinning.
“I called him in here and I told him, ‘This game is going to go real fast for you today, it always does,’ ” Gardenhire said. “Everything is going to be sped up. But I told him, ‘Just tell yourself it’s a normal baseball game. This is what you’ve been doing your whole life. Don’t let it overwhelm you. Take it all in and enjoy it.
“This is the first of what will probably be a lot of firsts for him over a long career.”
Rogers said that was the best advice he got — just breathe and take it all in.
“It’s been slow to hit me,” he said. “Last night, obviously, I was excited. But it didn’t really hit me until I got on the plane and landed here and we pulled up at the park. It got to me. It’s fun but my heart is definitely beating.”
Around the horn
Outfielder Victor Reyes was officially added to the active roster Tuesday. He'd been summoned on Monday when the Tigers were uncertain about the health of Nick Castellanos. Castellanos turned out to be fine, but Christin Stewart suffered a concussion slamming into the left field wall Monday night and was placed on the seven-day concussion protocol.
... Right-hander Spencer Turnbull (back) had a successful rehab start for Toledo Tuesday. He pitched 3 2/3 scoreless, one-hit innings and struck out seven.
Tigers at Angels
First pitch: Wednesday, 4:10 p.m.
TV/radio: FSD/97.1 FM
LHP Daniel Norris (2-8, 4.89), Tigers: It’s been gradual, for sure, probably too gradual for his liking, but Norris continues to get stronger and more confident. Two starts ago he’d allowed a run in four innings (just 58 pitches) before the rain ended his night. In Seattle, he pitched six scoreless, three-hit innings before fading in the seventh.
LHP Jose Suarez (2-1, 5.35), Angels: This will be just his ninth big-league start and he’s not completed five innings in his last four. But he has an elite change-up, which he throws 10 mph slower than his fastball (91.7 mph). He has a 38.6 percent strikeout rate and a 41 percent whiff rate with his change-up.