MILWAUKEE — Mark Rogers received a rude welcome last Sunday when he made his first Major League Baseball appearance since 2010.
Steve Lombardozzi of the Washington Nationals hit a leadoff home run off the Orrs Island native.
But Rogers has overcome more adversity than most in his nine-year pro career, so he shook it off and went on to pitch impressively.
He allowed six hits and two runs in 5 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts and one walk.
The 26-year-old former Mount Ararat High School of Topsham phenom will make his next start on Saturday against St. Louis.
“[Lombardozzi’s homer] actually settled me into the game,” Rogers said. “I didn’t have any time to dwell on it. It was done with and there was nothing I could do about it. All I could do was move on and try to get people out.”
Rogers, a first-round draft pick (fifth overall) by the Brewers in 2004, was understandably pleased with his outing.
“It was a good day,” said Rogers. “It was nice to be out there. I just tried to do what I had been doing for the last month: Stay within myself and trust my stuff. The more I do that, the better the outcome is going to be.”
Rogers was called up by the Brewers after Zack Greinke was traded to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
He had been pitching for the Nashville Sounds in the AAA Pacific Coast League and had strung together three solid outings after a tough start to the season. He allowed nine hits and two runs with 20 strikeouts and five walks in 19 innings.
He is healthy for the first time in quite a while.
Rogers had surgery on both hands last August due to bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome.
He had undergone shoulder surgery in 2006 for a labrum (cartilage) tear in his right shoulder and, the following year, had to have scar tissue removed from the shoulder that had resulted from the previous surgery.
He missed the entire 2007 and 2008 seasons.
“It has definitely been a process, that’s for sure,” said Rogers. “But this is the best I’ve felt for a real long time. It has taken a lot of hard work and physical therapy.”
He credited physical therapist Kenny Patterson with playing a major role in his rehabilitation.
“Hopefully, the injuries are behind me for good,” said Rogers, who has kept an upbeat approach throughout his ordeals.
“I can’t worry about things I can’t control. I signed up for this lifestyle and I know injuries can be a part of it. Unfortunately, I got hurt,” Rogers said.
“I wasn’t going to give up,” added Rogers. “I always believed that if I was healthy, I could pitch in the big leagues. I did everything possible to get back to 100 percent and I think I’m there right now.”
Fred Dabney, the pitching coach for the Sounds, is another person Rogers credits with playing an integral role in his development.
Dabney said Rogers deserves credit for his perseverance.
“Obviously, he has had to face some surgeries that he has had to deal with,” said Dabney. “But he kept working hard and he has always been very positive. He’s a great kid.”
Rogers has regained the velocity on the fastball that enabled him to strike out 164 hitters in 67 1/3 innings as a senior at Mount Ararat. He was 9-1 and was the recipient of the Dr. John Winkin Award given to the state’s top senior player.
He was also the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year.
“At the outset of the season, he was throwing his fastball 89 miles an hour and was topping out at 92-94,” said Dabney. “But he has been in the mid-90s consistently lately.”
“It has been up to 97-98,” said Rogers. “I feel like myself again. I didn’t pitch must last year. It took a little time [to regain my fastball].”
He throws two fastballs, a two-seamer and a four-seamer, along with a slider, curve and changeup.
“I’ve always been a power pitcher and that won’t change. But I’ve talked to guys like [Brewers pitchers] Shaun Marcum and Randy Wolf about the craft of pitching and it has really helped me. There are so many intricacies in the game. You have to learn how to pitch. The hitters can hit the fastball so you have to be a be able to throw your secondary pitches for strikes.”
He said he is comfortable throwing all of his pitches.
Rogers had a brief stint with the Brewers in 2010 and posted a 1.80 earned run average in four appearances spanning 10 innings.
“He has real good bite on his curve and slider,” said Dabney. “And he has developed a good feel for his changeup.”
“I’m just going to approach things one day at a time and go out and attack the hitters. Why not?” said Rogers.
Dabney feels Rogers has a good shot at being a productive Major League pitcher, saying, “he has four [legitimate] major league pitches.”
The 6-foot-2-inch, 225-pound righthander is looking forward to the rest of the season and said his home state is never far from his thoughts.
“I love Maine. There’s no place like it,” said Rogers, who recalled his high school days pitching in front of large crowds who were anxious to see him pitch.
“I remember pitching at Mansfield (Stadium in Bangor) and that was great and then we played at Hadlock (Field in Portland) and that was pretty awesome,” Rogers said. “The support I have received from everybody in Maine has been awesome. That just how Mainers are. We stick together.”