Among the important differences between the alternate camp site in Bowie and the fall instructional camp in Sarasota, Fla., is the ability of the Orioles to free their rehabbing players from home confinement.
Injured Orioles couldn’t report to Prince George’s Stadium unless they were included in the 60-man pool, which had been reserved for players who might earn a call-up to the majors or healthy prospects.
Left-hander Josh Rogers was working out at a friend’s indoor sports training facility in Sellersburg, Ind., before reporting to the Ed Smith Stadium complex on Oct. 5. He’s already thrown a couple of bullpen sessions and yesterday faced hitters in live batting practice.
The recovery phase of Rogers’ progression is done. Now he’s getting back into the pitching flow and expects to be full-go in spring training.
Rogers, 26, underwent his second elbow surgery on July 3, 2019, this one called an ulnar collateral ligament revision. He had Tommy John surgery during his senior year in high school.
Dr. Keith Meister performed the latest surgery in Arlington, Texas, and Rogers graduated a year later to throwing off a mound at The Lab - his plans to rehab at his alma mater, the University of Louisville, ruined by the coronavirus pandemic - and wait for the Orioles to move their interactions past the video stage.
The days spent in Sarasota allow for hands-on work with director of pitching Chris Holt, other instructors and a medical staff that includes minor league medical coordinator Dave Walker and rehab coordinator Kyle Corrick.
“It’s been good to get in front of some eyes and be around the facility again, the training staff. It’s awesome,” Rogers said yesterday in a phone call while heading back to the hotel.
“When I got down here I threw a couple bullpens. I’ve been working with Chris Holt and our training staff. Working on a few things. But mainly my focus down here was to get healthy and just kind of finish up the program so I can come into spring 2021 healthy and ready to go. So I’ve thrown a couple bullpens and (yesterday) was my second live BP. I threw 25 pitches to hitters and threw the ball really well. And I’m healthy, healthy, healthy.
“I’m so excited, I feel like a little kid.”
Rogers is facing some big-time prospects, including catcher Adley Rutschman and the 2020 draft picks.
“Not anybody really good,” he quipped.
“Adley looks really, really good. The middle infielder from Ole Miss (Anthony Servideo) had a couple really good at-bats. Left-handed kid. It’s good just to have somebody in the box, especially some actual high-caliber prospect kind of kids, which is great.
“In all honesty, my arm hasn’t felt like this in years. My body, I’m in the best shape I’ve been in in years and I’m throwing the ball really well. The results, hitters aren’t really amped up and postseason ready, but from an arm standpoint and how I feel, it’s awesome.”
Rogers tweeted his appreciation of Walker and Corrick last week, along with a photo of a cake left in his locker as a surprise after facing live hitters for the first time.
“Our training staff and everybody is doing like a crazy good job with all the protocols, all the masks, the medical intake we have to do every day, the screenings we have to do. They’re working their butts off, man. We have to appreciate them to just be able to do this kind of camp, first and foremost. The people that the Orioles have put in place have been awesome. They’re doing a really good job, the camp’s structured really well and it’s a perfect time for guys who are just getting acclimated to pro ball to be around the facility, around how pro ball works.
“The camp’s running real good and it’s cool for me to be here as an older guy, too.”
Holt is a leading candidate to replace Doug Brocail as pitching coach. In the meantime, he’s able to check Rogers’ progress and mechanics.
“We’ve been working together,” Rogers said. “It’s been kind of weird with COVID and how he was up in Baltimore and Bowie, bouncing back and forth. He’s got a lot more on his plate than dealing with me rehabbing at home, so we haven’t had the chance to really sit down and break down my delivery and break down his philosophy on things. But his input, man, he’s one of the smartest pitching guys I’ve ever been around for sure.
“Honestly, I’m just trying to be like a sponge down here and learn as much from Chris as I can right now. Just use his knowledge and try to put it into my delivery, some of the newer stuff that baseball is trending to and all those kinds of things. I’m not going to reinvent the wheel and who I am, and Chris doesn’t want to do that with me, either. But he’s got some really good input and some drills and just things that he’s helped me with so far that I’m already seeing a little bit of benefits from in the short time I’ve got to work with him down here. Hopefully, I can just continue to keep working with him and take these things into the offseason and continue to just get better and better.”
Rogers made five relief appearances with the Orioles in 2019 prior to his surgery, allowing 14 runs in 14 1/3 innings. He came off the 40-man roster in November and is eligible to be taken in the Rule 5 draft.
The Orioles kept their Sarasota complex closed until finalizing plans for the fall instructional camp. Rogers worked out at home and his friend’s facility, never missing a day of his throwing program.
“We had a great schedule,” he said. “It was a lot of work, but I’m definitely, definitely in the right direction, which is super exciting.”
The instructional league runs through the end of the month. Rogers is taking a few days off and throwing an inning in a simulated game.
“Then I’ll head home and have a normal offseason,” he said. “Shut down for a couple weeks or a month, whatever the plan will be, and then get back into a normal throwing program so that in spring 2021, ready to roll.”