Rogers Happy to Contribute to Tribe in Any Role
By Mike Brandyberry
Sometimes the most simple adjustments have the biggest impacts.
For Indians right-handed relief pitcher Esmil Rogers, just getting ahead of hitters and throwing strikes has been the biggest improvement since his change of scenery from Colorado.
“I think the biggest adjustment I’ve made is just throwing strikes,” Rogers said. “I think that is the reason I’ve been pitching well. I don’t walk too many guys, so that has helped.”
The Indians obtained Rogers from the Rockies on June 12 for cash considerations after he had already been designated for assignment. Rogers struggled in the Colorado air the last two years to find his control. Last season he worked mostly as a starter, going 6-6, with a 7.05 ERA, while walking 47 in 83 innings of work.
This season the Rockies used Rogers exclusively from the bullpen, but he was not able to find his control or settle into a role. Rogers was 0-2, with an 8.06 ERA in 25 innings of work this season. He had allowed 36 hits and 18 walks when Colorado finally decided they could no longer wait for the 26-year old to develop. Rogers acknowledges Colorado is a tough park to pitch in, but does not point to the thin air as a result of his struggles.
“It isn’t that difficult, a lot of pitchers have had good years like Ublado in 2010,” Rogers said. “Sometimes your breaking ball breaks too much or your change up hangs, but now you don’t think about that. You have to do your job and throw strikes.”
Since arriving in Cleveland, Rogers has been a new pitcher, commanding the strike zone and attacking hitters. In his 24 innings of work since arriving on the lakefront, Rogers has only issued seven walks. The improvement in control has allowed Indians Manager Manny Acta to go to Rogers in tight situations.
Acta has used Rogers as a set up man on evenings when Joe Smith has been overused and is unavailable, or as a bridge from a short start to the Smith and fellow back end bullpen mates, Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez. Rogers can use his fastball that has been clocked as high as 97 mph this season to get a strike out or work out of a tight jam in a short relief situation.
“That’s really good confidence for me,” Rogers said. “You come into the game to do your job and throw strikes. I think Manny sees that and has put me in different roles. I want to be ready to throw at any time.”
Until Josh Tomlin was moved to the bullpen this week, the Tribe has not had a true long reliever in its bullpen, so while Rogers has excelled in a short relief role, he has still been used in early and long relief situations. Regardless of role, Rogers doesn’t mind how he is used. He’s just happy the Indians trust him to contribute.
“I like it. Manny told me when I came here, I have to be ready every day because he doesn’t know when he will use me,” Rogers said. “So when I get in, I just want to show why I’m here.”
Regardless or role or location, Rogers has had a strange road to Cleveland. Ironically, Rogers was the pitcher who relieved Ubaldo Jimenez in San Diego when the Tribe traded for him on July 30, 2011. Rogers warmed in the bullpen as soon as the game began and relieved Jimenez after the first inning when the trade became final. Less than a year later, they are reunited, teammates again, but this time in Cleveland.
“You never know where you are going to be in baseball,” Rogers said. “One day I’m in Colorado and now I’m here. I want to be here and in this clubhouse with these guys.”
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images