Sunday, April 20, 2014
By Kevin Thomas email@example.com
Venezuela was not working out, so Mark Rogers sought the help of another native Mainer.
Rogers, the professional baseball pitcher from Orrs Island, worked out with former major leaguer Billy Swift in Arizona, where both now live.
This has been an interesting offseason for Rogers, who turns 28 on Thursday. He was taken off the 40-man roster of the Milwaukee Brewers, the team that drafted him out of Mt. Ararat High School in the first round of the 2004 draft.
That left Rogers free to sign with any team. Rogers, with a history of shoulder and wrist injuries, needed to demonstrate he was fit. He journeyed to Venezuela in November to play in the winter league.
“Interesting experience,” Rogers said during a recent phone interview. “I was down there for a month. There was so much travel. It was hard to get into shape.”
So Rogers returned to Arizona and sought out Swift, a South Portland native who pitched in the majors for 13 seasons. Swift, the only other Mainer besides Rogers chosen in the first round of the regular draft, is now the head coach at Arizona Christian University in Phoenix.
“I made a lot of progress working out with Billy,” Rogers said.
Rogers invited teams to a showcase at the university to judge for themselves if he was ready to pitch again. More than 20 teams sent scouts.
“I wanted to show teams that I’m healthy and in shape and ready to pitch at the highest level,” said Rogers, whose fastball was clocked at 95 mph.
Rogers signed a minor league contract with the Seattle Mariners last week. The deal includes an invitation to major league spring training camp.
“A lot of teams showed up, but Seattle seems like it was going to be the best opportunity for me,” Rogers said, “I know the GM there well (Jack Zduriencik was the Brewers’ scouting director when they drafted Rogers). I just liked what he had to say.
“Seems like a great place for me to pitch in the big leagues, and pitch in the big leagues soon.”
Rogers thought he would have a chance last season to cement a spot in the majors. He was called up by Milwaukee late in the 2012 season and went 3-1 with a 3.92 ERA in seven starts.
But health became a problem again. A weak shoulder kept Rogers from making the roster in spring training. He made only 12 appearances in the minors.
Rogers, who is married (Kerrie) and has a 17-month-old daughter (Ellyette), found himself out of a job after the season. But now he feels prepared to get back to the majors and stay there.
“I can finally say I’m 100 percent healthy,” Rogers said. “The arm is responding quickly after bullpens. I really feel strong.”
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