PHOENIX – As he made his way back from a left shoulder impingement, Josh Rogers probably figured he’d be back on the Nationals roster as soon as he was deemed healthy, whether in their rotation or their bullpen.
Instead, a healthy Rogers now finds himself in the rotation at Triple-A Rochester. Though they formally activated him off the 15-day injured list Friday, the Nats also optioned Rogers to the minors, deciding not to put him in the big leagues for now.
That decision, manager Davey Martinez said, was made because the club both wants Rogers to work on some specific things but also wants to make sure he gets regular work as a starter in case a need does arise at the major league level.
“I know he wanted to develop a changeup. He’s working on a different breaking ball,” Martinez said. “But more so than anything, it’s to keep him stretched out. I think we’ve got to keep him stretched out. The more starters we can have in the minor leagues, the better we’re going to be here in the long run. We’ve got to keep an eye on innings with some of our guys. You just don’t know what’s going to happen down the road. So we want to keep him stretched out.”
The Nationals rotation, at the moment, consists of veterans Patrick Corbin, Aníbal Sánchez and Paolo Espino, plus Erick Fedde and Josiah Gray. In Gray’s case, there is the possibility the organization shuts him down at some point out of concern for his workload in his first full big league season. That could open the door for Rogers to return.
Why not keep Rogers in the big leagues as a multi-inning reliever, especially as the lone left-hander in this bullpen? The Nats believe he’s more valuable to them at the moment as a Triple-A starter.
“I think that’s very much what the case is right now,” Martinez said. “Our bullpen’s been pretty good. We need him to get length and keep him stretched out. So we thought the best way to do it is to get him to Rochester, let him pitch every five days, and then we’ll go from there.”
* Luis García wasn’t in tonight’s lineup, the second time the young shortstop hasn’t started a game in the last week after 41 consecutive starts upon his promotion from Triple-A.
Part of the reason for tonight’s decision was Diamondbacks starter Madison Bumgarner, who is especially tough on left-handed hitters. Ehire Adrianza got the start at shortstop instead.
But Martinez also wanted to ease García back into the mix coming out of the All-Star break.
“And then after that, let him go back out there and he’ll start playing every day again,” the manager said. “After taking four days off, I don’t really know what these guys have done for four days. So I want to make sure we keep them healthy. And that for the next 2 1/2 months, they stay healthy and they can play every day. Luis is going to play every day. It was just a chance for me to get him out there, give him a day, and then get him back out there and let him go.”