FORT MYERS, Fla. - Orioles manager Brandon Hyde spent part of yesterday’s postgame media session praising left-hander Josh Rogers for setting a rapid tempo rather than lulling everyone to sleep between pitches. Rogers isn’t doing it by accident.
He retired all six Rays that he faced in the blink of an eye.
“I’m definitely conscious of it,” he said. “It’s something I feel like I use to my advantage. I don’t think it’s something you can just get up there and do. I’ve taught myself to do it in a way, but in a controlled way and an efficient way. To use my body to take the time I need to when things kind of go off the rails a little bit.
“I can just as easily give up four runs as fast as I can get three outs. Sometimes you just have to slow it down a little bit.”
There’s no need for Rogers to pay attention to the 20-second pitch clock. It has no impact on him, as executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias learned in a recent conversation.
“I said, ‘I never even looked at it one time,’” Rogers said. “I think I get every pitch off under five or six seconds. As fast as I can.
“I know the hitters hate it. I’ve got buddies that I’ve faced, like college teammates that I faced, and they say it’s the worst thing ever. Nick Solak from Tampa Bay makes a joke. He says, ‘Your stuff’s no good, but you do that to try to throw people off.’ He gives me a hard time about it.”
Rogers is like the driver in the left lane who can’t comprehend why anyone is working under the speed limit.
“I think I always wanted to work fast,” Rogers added. “Me and my college pitching coach even kind of head-butted about it a little bit because he would call the pitches and I would be ready to go, ready to go, and as soon as I got to pro ball, it was something I established right off the bat. Hey, I’m going to get the ball off the rubber and throw it. Whatever happens, happens. Just make a quality pitch and we’ll see what happens.
“It’s something I’ve always tried to do. I know when the hitters are calling time and they seem uncomfortable, it doesn’t bother me. They can do that all day. As soon as they get in I’m going to throw the pitch anyway.”
Rogers hasn’t permitted a run in three relief appearances covering five innings. Only two hits allowed, one walk and one strikeout. He threw 12 pitches in an inning in his debut, 24 over two innings in his next outing and 20-24 yesterday.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” he said. “My strikeouts aren’t probably where everybody wants them to be, but my main focus is just attacking hitters aggressively and getting the team back in the dugout to hit as quickly as possible and just to be as efficient as possible.
“Being a starter, it’s kind of been different coming out of the bullpen right now, having that mentality, but it’s been a good adjustment so far and keep pounding the zone.”
How he’s been used in spring training isn’t necessarily a precursor to the regular season. Rogers has a shot at the fifth starter’s job.
“I mean, I have no idea,” he said. “I’m literally (trying to) dominate the innings I’m given right now and just be effective. If they want to use me in that role, I’d be ecstatic for it. That’s what I’ve done my whole career is be a starter. I’ve logged innings. To be a left-handed starter that logs innings, I feel like it’s pretty valuable on a team.
“Obviously, I haven’t done that on the big league level yet, but I’m excited for the opportunity.”
The Orioles gave Rogers three starts after he came over from the Yankees in the Zach Britton trade. He earned his first win in his debut, allowing three runs to the Blue Jays in five innings, took the loss against the Mariners despite holding them to two runs in 5 1/3 innings and lasting only 1 2/3 versus the Rays at Tropicana Field while surrendering six runs and six hits.
He was shut down at that point to rest his arm, his innings for the entire summer capped at 151 1/3.
The experience was beneficial to Rogers no matter the results on the field.
“I think it’s a huge difference now, like how I’m doing right now with the guys in the clubhouse, just like knowing guys,” he said. “I think coming into my first big league camp, if I wouldn’t have been up there with guys like Cash (Andrew Cashner) and (Alex) Cobb and ... I can go golf with them now, I can hang out with them outside of here because I know them. It’s not like I just met them a couple of weeks ago and kind of had my foot in the door and not knowing what to say.
“I’m pretty comfortable. I get to be myself. I think Hyder and the staff has done a really good job of kind of expressing that, just be who you are. I’m not the quietest guy. I know I’m a rookie, but it’s still a lot of fun. I love to give those guys crap.”
* Hyde didn’t lay out the plan for Nate Karns beyond today’s bullpen session. Karns was skipped last night due to some soreness in his arm that’s subsided.
“Hopefully, he responds to it well and he’ll be right on track,” Hyde said.
“I haven’t heard anything new on that except he’s in the care of some U.S. doctors and I think we’re still doing tests on him to see if he’s responding and we can bring him over here.”
* Catcher Jesús Sucre is in camp. Hyde met with him before boarding the bus to Fort Myers.
“Saw him this morning. Looks great. Great shape,” Hyde said.
“Got to know him this morning a little bit. We’re going to ramp him up as he feels. He might work out today and as we go along here the next few days, we’ll have him catch some sides, take BP. But he hasn’t done anything for a handful of days, so we’re not going to rush him back anytime soon.”
Sucre played winter ball and shouldn’t need much time before he’s ready to get into games.
“He said the last time he played was in January,” Hyde said. “It was hard for him to get over here, so he’s been through a long process, especially the last week, of getting the right paperwork. So he just hasn’t done anything the last handful of days. We’re not going to rush him into any game action.”
* Hyde didn’t watch John Means’ start last night against the Yankees, but he was given a full report.
“Threw the ball great against a lot of their main guys,” he said. “Great to see. Sounds like we pitched really, really, well in Tampa, so that’s fortunate.
“Everybody was talking about Means. Stuff looked good, he had some command and it was a positive start for him for sure.”
For Means to bounce back from a miserable relief appearance on Tuesday, with three runs charged in one-third of an inning, offered a glimpse into his strong mental state. Hyde took notice.
“It shows a lot about his character,” Hyde said. “His velo was up last night, he was throwing strikes. To be able to come back after a rough outing and be able to face the heart of the Yankees order and pitch well for a couple of innings, that shows a lot about him.
“There’s already enough pressure. We’re not reinventing the wheel. These guys know what’s at stake, so I don’t need to add anything to that. It’s a major league job, you know? In the AL East. So I don’t need to add any undue pressure on anybody. I just want guys to compete and try to win a job and show their best.”
“We still have so far to go defensively,” Hyde said. “We’re getting a little bit better every single day and we’re going to continue these next few weeks into the season. Defense we’re going to make a priority and we’ve talked to a lot of the players about how important it is that we’re sound defensively.
“We’re getting a little better and I feel good about where we’re at. I just want us to tighten it up a little bit as we go along.”
Third baseman Renato Núñez made two throwing errors last night, giving him three this spring, and has struggled with his accuracy as a professional. No one questions his arm strength, but his throws can be erratic.
“Nunie’s been working really, really hard. Him and Flo (Jose Flores) have been working hard on a daily basis and it’s just something we’re going to continue with,” Hyde said.
“Obviously, we’d like to see him get a little bit more consistent in his accuracy and his footwork, and it’s something he’s been getting after it every single day. Nunie can hit, but the defense part of it is something that, we’re with him every single day and making it a real priority for him.”
Update: Stevie Wilkerson’s two-run single in the second inning gave the Orioles a 2-0 lead. Jace Peterson led off with a walk and Drew Jackson singled. A passed ball followed by Wilkerson’s single broke the scoreless tie.