Rogers had been invited to Cardinals minor league camp on a make-good offer this spring. Using his knuckleball to strategic advantage, the 26-year-old impressed in Jupiter, FL while pitching for Triple-A Memphis.
For example on the 15th, Rogers spun three scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and walking none. He fanned two. His next time out on Wednesday, he issued a lone walk in four impressive hitless innings, fanning two.
With a dearth of solid left-handed options at the high levels of the system, if Rogers continues to impress, he might capture the attention of Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan.
It has been a long road back for Rogers, originally signed by the Cardinals organization at the age of 19 as a non-drafted free agent in July, 2001. He pitched in relief for Johnson City in 2001 and Peoria of the Midwest League in 2002 and 2003 before being released at the end of spring training, 2004. With the Cardinals, the Californian had posted a 2.50 ERA in 111 2/3 innings, fanning 130 and walking just 26.
After leaving the employ of the Cardinals, the 6-foot-2, 180-pounder pitched for the Red Sox in A ball in 2004 and part of the 2005 season, where he was encouraged to deploy the knuckler which he currently uses 30% of the time. Rogers had briefly reached Double-A in 2004 before being released again, in July, 2005.
Rogers was then picked up by Fullerton of the Golden Baseball League of Independent Baseball, where he finished the 2005 season appearing in 10 games including three starts, posting a 3.94 ERA.
In 2006, he signed with the WhiteWings, where he started eight games and recorded a 6-1 record with an impressive 2.84 ERA. Rogers struck out 54 batters while only walking 10 in 66 innings of work. Last season, in 17 starts over 121 innings, he won 11 games, second-best in the league, and his ERA was third lowest in the United League at 3.25.
This past winter, Rogers pitched for the Gavilanes de Minatitlan of the Veracruz Winter Instructional League in Mexico, where he pitched 100 innings and struck out a league-best 108 with an ERA of 0.98. He tossed a no-hitter and took the league one-game strikeout record at 14. He only walked eight batters total, demonstrating both effectiveness and durability.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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