In Detroit on Tuesday night, the Detroit Tigers played host to the Astros.
In Toledo, catcher Jake Rogers — part of the Aug. 31, 2017 trade that sent right-hander Justin Verlander to Houston — made his debut with Triple-A Toledo.
Rogers was promoted to the Mud Hens on Monday after hitting .302 with five home runs and 21 RBIs in 27 games with Double-A Erie.
“It’s crazy,” Rogers said, in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday afternoon. “It’s great. Just climbing that ladder means everything. It’s one step closer to the ultimate dream of getting to Detroit, so it means everything right now.”
Rogers, 24, is considered the Tigers’ catcher of the future.
A defensive standout behind home plate, the only thing holding Rogers back from starting the season at Toledo was his offensive production. After hitting .219 last season at Erie, the team wanted him to show improvements.
So far, those improvements have been evident.
Rogers is making more contact this season while still hitting for power.
But while his swing has long been a topic of conversation — before getting traded to the Tigers two seasons ago, he worked on a swing change designed to hit more balls in the air — he thinks the biggest difference is pitch recognition.
“It’s really just seeing pitches well, swinging at good pitches, not chasing pitches out of the zone and really focusing on my routine,” Rogers said. “Just getting kind of in the swing of things, but yeah, it’s picking out good pitches to hit and hitting them hard.”
This, Rogers said, is the crux of the changes the Tigers have tried to make with him. It’s not flattening his swing plane or the changes that he’s already made, but simply find a good pitch and hit it hard.
“There’s similarities and differences, for sure, in the organizations,” he said, “But here, they just really focus on making contact or making hard contact. And Houston did that, too — picking out good pitches to hit and hitting them hard was a big deal.
More: Justin Verlander helped Tigers’ Daniel Norris get past darkness of rehab
More: Justin Verlander explains why Detroit Tigers lost twice in World Series
“Here, it was just kind of tone it down, tone down the strikeouts and really focus on getting a good pitch to hit. I know that was a big deal and I know focusing on a routine of things and really getting into the swing really helped me excel as a hitter.”
Rogers is considered the best defensive catcher in the minor leagues. His defense is Major League-ready now. But with the Tigers in the second full season of a rebuilding process, there is no impetus to rushing him to the top level now, especially with Grayson Greiner stepping nicely into the starting catcher role.
Though Rogers’ overall numbers in 2018 were below-average, he rebounded strong in the second half, which put him in a position to have a bounce-back season.
“You want to ride every wave you can get,” he said. “So that struggle in the first half, it always helps to obviously get the ball rolling a little bit and find some barrels and find a couple doubles and homers and get on base.
“Riding that wave into the off-season and the spring this year, I’m going to ride it as long as I can. So it’s helped me out a lot. The first half of last year really humbled me and I think going forward, it’s just going to make me handle adversity a little better.”
Contact Anthony Fenech at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @anthonyfenech. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.
Published at Wed, 15 May 2019 10:19:30 +0000