Undergoing one Tommy John surgery isn’t an unusual occurrence for a pitcher. It’s almost become the norm, happening at earlier ages with a higher level of success rates. The panic factor isn’t as intense.
But two of the exact same procedures?
As he sees it, there are advantages attached to the familiarity. He knows what to expect and how to tweak the routine.
The Orioles announced on July 3 that Rogers, 25, had a procedure on his elbow known as an ulnar collateral ligament “revision,” the fancy name given for a second Tommy John surgery. The first happened during his senior year in high school.
Dr. Keith Meister performed the latest surgery in Arlington, Texas, and the club said it was successful, though who truly knows until he’s back on a mound?
The timetable is the same, with Rogers missing the rest of the 2019 season and perhaps most of 2020.
“I definitely have some hope to pitch next year,” said Rogers, who came to the Orioles in the 2018 deadline trade with the Yankees for closer Zack Britton. “I mean, I don’t know if I’ll be pitching at the big league level next year. I don’t know that, I can’t say that I will be ready to do that, but we’ve got a good plan built out.
“Dr. Meister down in Texas did a phenomenal job, and does a phenomenal job, and I think I’m four or five months out right now and I feel better than I ever have. My body-wise, my arm-wise, I feel great. I’m super excited to come to camp in February and start my throwing progression and slowly but surely get back into the mix of things. And hopefully, by the end of the year be able to throw enough, even if it’s in the Gulf Coast League or maybe go to Aberdeen for some type of rehab, to put myself back on track and, hopefully, get back to big league camp the following spring and compete for a job.”
Rogers is rehabbing at the University of Louisville, where the Yankees selected him in the 11th round of the 2015 First-Year Player Draft.
“Honestly, the rehab process, and anybody who does rehab and is a physical therapist, is an athlete going through rehab, it can be really repetitive at times,” Rogers said. “Just the grind of it all. But I’ve got the athletic trainer here and the strength staff here who are doing a great job pushing me every day.
“I’m not in any type if throwing progression yet. That’ll probably ramp up here the next month, in January. It’s a lot of tedious things - scapular mobility, scapular strengthening. And the big part of it is getting in the weight room and getting my body in the best shape that I can possibly be in to compete for that job whenever it arises again and whenever I get that opportunity, and I’m really looking forward to that.
“I know for a fact that I’ll be back.”
He just won’t be on the 40-man roster. The team outrighted him earlier this month after he cleared waivers.
“I was hopeful that I would stay on the roster, obviously,” he said. “Definitely understand the decision-making process and it is a business. And me being hurt doesn’t help. I can’t come into spring training and compete for a job. I can’t contribute to the team in the first half of the year, maybe even the year at all, so definitely understanding of it.
“I feel like I have tons of value to the organization, to the big league club. I’ve been working my butt off all offseason. I’ve been working with physical therapists (Pat Hassell and Zach Farrel) and D-Walk (minor league medical coordinator Dave Walker) and (head athletic trainer) Brian Ebel to get back to where I was when I got traded over last year in the Britton thing.
“I’m very, very confident that I’ll be back better than ever and can get back to that level of performance that I was at before.”
Rogers didn’t come close to it this year. He made five relief appearances with the Orioles and allowed 14 runs and 18 hits with six walks and seven home runs surrendered in 14 1/3 innings.
Eleven starts with Triple-A Norfolk produced an 8.51 ERA and 1.745 WHIP over 55 innings.
The Orioles promoted him twice as they tried to seal a bullpen that kept springing leaks. He allowed two runs in 4 1/3 innings against the Red Sox on June 14 and made three more appearances that month, the last convincing him that surgery was pending.
Rogers worked 2 1/3 innings against the Padres and allowed three runs and five hits with two home runs. He walked into the clubhouse shaken, knowing that he wouldn’t throw another pitch.
“I’m not going to toot my own horn here - maybe a little bit - but if you look at the course of my career, the resume I’ve put together and pitching in my lifetime, I’ve never, ever posted numbers like that,” he said. “You can say the baseballs, you can say all this different stuff, but there’s no doubt in my mind that I was pitching through something for a while.
“Everybody battles through injures. I’m not making any type of excuse to say that’s why I didn’t have a good year, but I mean, if you throw anybody out there with a ligament that’s not really working, I’m sure they’re not going to perform at the highest level.
“I’m not going to say that it was torn all year long, but there were definitely some struggles.”
Followed by a second Tommy John surgery that removed Rogers from the mound but placed him on familiar ground.
“I think it actually helped, honestly. I mean, it’s probably better than injuring my shoulder or hurting my knee or foot or hand or anything else,” he said.
“I was a senior in high school, I was starting summer classes in college when I first rehabbed, and I’m way more experienced now. I know what the rehab process is, I know what it looks like, I know how to get back, and I also know things that work and don’t work.
“I’ve changed some things. Obviously, technology and stuff has advanced, so things are better rehabbing five years later. But knowing that process and the grind, mentally I think it definitely helps because you see a lot of guys who are hurt and it’s really tough mentally for them. And it has been for me at times. But I think being back here at Louisville, rehabbing with the staff here, they’ve been excellent and a huge help to me and definitely getting me back to where I need to be.”