Thursday, August 16, 2012

Mark Rogers might win...some day

Mark Rogers of the Milwaukee Brewers is not a very lucky fellow. And that is unfortunate because he is from this great state of Maine and Maine is not exactly brimming with baseball success stories. And so it was pretty darned exciting when a kid who went to Mount Ararat High School in Topsham, Maine was the fifth overall selection in the first round of the 2004 draft. He had big strikeout numbers early in his years in the minors and made Baseball America's Top 100 prospects in 2005 and 2006. But he also walked a lot of people and did not progress quickly. And then he hurt his shoulder.

The injury was in 2006 and he had surgery to repair a torn labrum. A year later, he had to have another surgery to remove scar tissue from the first surgery. He finally got back in action in 2009 and seemed headed in the right direction as he had a good first year back. He also did well enough in 2010 that the Brewers called him up for his major league debut.

Rogers made four appearances in 2010 for a total of ten innings including one start that lasted five innings. Rogers pitched well. He struck out eleven batters and walked only two and allowed only two hits. He was on his way, right? Not exactly.

2011 was not a good year for Mark Rogers. His pitching was brutal and he went 0-5 in several levels. He pitched several levels because he had a drug suspension for stimulants thrown in the mix. For once, the 0-5 record was not mere bad luck. He earned that record. But that doesn't hold true for the rest of his minor league career. Rogers has pitched to the tune of a 4.70 ERA in the minors. No, that's not great. But it's not bad enough to compile the 16-36 record (.306 winning percentage). A record that bad requires some bad luck.

Rogers was pitching fairly well in Triple-A in 2012. For once, his record wasn't that bad at 6-6. He no longer struck out a lot of people and the high walk rate was still there. But he was 6-6. Then the Brewers traded Zack Greinke and Rogers got the call to the majors.

Rogers has now made four starts in the big leagues this season. He should have won three of them. He has not won any of them. On his first start on July 29, he had to face the Nationals. Have fun with that one, kid. And he did. He pitched five and two-thirds innings and gave up only two runs and struck out seven against only one walk. He left the game with a 3-2 lead. The Brewers would stretch that lead to 4-2 in the bottom of the sixth. But then it happened.

The Brewers' bullpen gave up eight runs and lost 11-10. 

In Rogers' second start, he faced the Cardinals. The poor kid was thrown into the mixing bowl in those first two starts, no? The Cards got to Rogers for five runs in five innings of work and though he struck out five and walked only one, Rogers gave up three extra base hits and earned the loss.

In Rogers' third start, he pitched brilliantly, albeit against the Astros. But still. He pitched seven innings and only gave up one run on three hits and two walks. He struck out eight. The Brewers were leading, 3-1 when Rogers left the game. Francisco Rodriguez gave up a run in the eighth to make it 3-2. And then a gaffe by Carlos Gomez in the field and another blown save by John Axford plated two Astros runs to lose the game for the Brewers in walk-off fashion. Rogers was again denied his first big league win.

Then he pitched just last night against the Rockies. Considering the game was in Coors Field and scoring is relative, Rogers pitched well. He pitched six innings and allowed five runs on seven hits. That is not a bad outing in Coors. Again, he left the game with his team in the lead, 6-5.

Jim Henderson is the new Brewers' closer. Henderson is another interesting story. Unlike Rogers, Henderson was selected in the 26th the Expos. He is a thirty year old rookie. He had recorded two saves recently and had looked like he could right the Brewers sinking ship and along the way, help Mark Rogers get his first win for his career. It did not happen.

Henderson gave up three hits and two runs in the ninth and the Rockies had a walk-off win. Three times Mark Rogers had been in line for his first major league win and all three times the Brewers blew the save.

But Rogers is not alone in that category for Brewers' starters. The Brewers' bullpen is one of the most intriguing stories of 2012 and has totally derailed this team's chances for a playoff spot. The Brewers have now blown 23 saves in 48 saves opportunities.

After a long and winding road to get himself back to the big leagues, Mark Rogers has not embarrassed himself. The kid from Maine is holding his own. And maybe someday, Robers will get a win to show for it.

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