INDIANAPOLIS – He thought it was his turn. No more part-time role, Jason Rogers was in line to possibly be a major league starting first baseman this season.
But within eight days, he found himself in another organization. Instead of being an everyday player at the major league level with Milwaukee, Rogers is in the Pirates’ system in Triple-A Indianapolis.
Disappointment is probably the biggest obstacle Rogers has encountered this season. But that emotion is not because he’s in the Pirates organization, but rather that he’s back in the minor leagues.
Rogers got his first extended time at the major league level last season, appearing in 86 games for the Brewers with 22 starts at first base. He hit .296 with an .808 OPS in 152 plate appearances, which includes a .265 average over 49 pinch-hit at-bats.
Then in the off-season, the Brewers traded starting first baseman Adam Lind to the Mariners. That essentially left Rogers as the team’s only first baseman.
Well, for about eight days. Then they traded Rogers to the Pirates for minor league outfielder Keon Broxton and pitcher Trey Supak. The trade caught Rogers off-guard, as he expected to be in contention for a starting role.
“I really did,” Rogers said. “I had been there for a while and showed what I could do when I play everyday. I thought it was going to be me, but then I got traded to the Pirates.”
Rogers proved himself as an offensive threat in the Brewers’ minor league system. He had a 1.056 OPS in 33 games with Triple-A Colorado Springs last season, before being promoted to the Brewers. In 2014, he had a .947 OPS in 57 games at Triple-A.
“I like his approach at the plate, I really do,” Indians manager Dean Treanor said. “He’s a threat at the plate at this level. I think there’s a lot of factors that come into play with this. We’ve sat down and talked. I think this guy’s experience is good. He’s good in the clubhouse.”
The main factor: Playing in Triple-A.
“You know, he’s here,” Treanor said. “It’s not where he wants to be. But I think he does a good job with that. You know that he thinks about it.”
The Pirates use one phrase frequently with their minor league players, telling them to remember “Where your feet are.” The phrase is used to remind players to focus on their role for whatever team they’re with at the time. Rogers said he tries to keep that ideology fresh in his mind, but admitted that it’s not always an easy task.
“There are times that, since I’ve been in Triple-A for a while, I lose concentration,” Rogers said. “I’ve done well in Triple-A in the past. I got in the big leagues, got that experience, and know what it takes. Probably my approach and concentration [is the biggest focus of improvement.]”
Rogers has a .738 OPS in 31 games with Indianapolis this season, but he was hitting well in mid-May before a recent slide. He had a 1.118 OPS through the first 11 games of the season, before being promoted to the Pirates. But once Jung Ho Kang returned from his injury, Rogers was sent back to Indianapolis.
During his time with the Pirates, Rogers had just two hits in 13 plate appearances over the span of nine games. It was not quite the hot start he wanted to showcase. Looking back, he feels he may have pressed too much once promoted.
“They only saw me for four or six games last year,” Rogers said. “Maybe I was pressing too much. I didn’t too well and that’s tough. Because of last year I feel confident about what I can do going forward.”
Half of his games with the Indians have been as a designated hitter, while Rogers has split the remainder of his games between first and third base. Rogers had not been used as a designated hitter extensively since playing for High-A Brevard County in 2012.
“It was tough then, but now I know the mindset,” Rogers said. “You just have to keep your body loose and be prepared mentally for when I’m in. I’m stretching all the time to keep this big body loose.”
Rogers is on the Pirates’ 40-man roster. He’s a likely call-up candidate when rosters expand later this season, as he can play multiple positions and has shown the ability to successfully be used as a pinch-hitter.
“This guy is a threat,” Treanor said. “He will help us in Pittsburgh at some point.”
Rogers will do what he needs to do in Indianapolis, but hopes that opportunity to help the Pirates comes sooner than later.