PITTSBURGH — Detroit Tigers catcher Jake Rogers underwent Tommy John surgical procedure Wednesday morning in Dallas, supervisor AJ Hinch introduced.
Dr. Keith Meister, the top workforce doctor for the Texas Rangers, carried out the surgical procedure to reconstruct Rogers’ ulnar collateral ligament in his proper elbow. The 26-year-old is the workforce’s second participant to require Tommy John surgical procedure this season, following right-handed pitcher Spencer Turnbull’s surgical procedure.
Rogers landed on the injured record July 19 with proper arm soreness. He’ll miss the rest of the 2021 season and far, if not all, of the 2022 marketing campaign.
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The medical tests following the injury in July revealed a pronator teres strain, which meant he had a forearm injury near his elbow. Around the end of July, the Tigers were eyeing a ‘”late-season return” for their budding catcher.
By late August, though, Hinch said he was “less optimistic” about Rogers’ return this year. He still hadn’t progressed in his throwing program in Lakeland, Florida. In early September, Hinch’s tone changed, explaining: “I don’t feel good” about the impending medical results.
The outcome: Tommy John surgery.
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2021 has been a difficult year for Rogers. After hoping to make the Opening Day roster out of spring, training, Rogers was relegated to the alternate training site in Toledo, and then Triple-A once the minor-league season began.
The Tigers recalled Rogers to the big leagues May 7, though giving him another opportunity to cement his status as the catcher of the future after acquiring him (with pitcher Franklin Perez and outfield Daz Cameron) from the Houston Astros in the 2017 Justin Verlander trade.
The first go-around wasn’t pleasant.
Rogers hit just .125 with four home runs, eight RBIs, 13 walks and 51 strikeouts over 35 games. His defense — where he is considered most valuable — slumped, too. He had nine passed balls over 302 innings behind the plate.
“There’s an opportunity here,” Rogers said May 8, ahead of his first game in 2021. “I want to make the most of it. I’m going to run with it. Hopefully, I do pretty well up here and make a name for myself. If I stay up here, I do. If I don’t, I’m going to go back down, serve my time and wait. I’m just trying to help the team win.”
Well, Rogers didn’t leave until an injury nixed his season.
He showcased an improved offensive approach with a .239 batting average, five doubles, three triples, six home runs, 17 RBIs, 11 walks and 46 strikeouts over 38 games. The Tigers were excited about this production, considering he is a defense-first catcher.
With only three passed balls across 310⅔ innings at catcher, he displayed the defensive success that caused the Astros to draft him 97th overall in 2016 and the Tigers to require his involvement in the Verlander deal in August 2017. He also recorded a .997 fielding percentage and one error.
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Another thing: Rogers shined when working with rookie pitchers Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal. With Rogers calling the shots, Mize flashed a 3.06 ERA with 13 walks and 54 strikeouts over 61⅓ innings; Skubal posted a 4.26 ERA with 17 walks and 62 strikeouts across 50⅔ innings. Fellow rookie starter Matt Manning only pitched 14⅓ innings with Rogers, but they were paired up in Triple-A Toledo earlier this season.
The four ex-prospects — Mize, Skubal, Manning and Rogers — played for Double-A Erie in 2019. The Tigers believed getting them back together in 2021 would help their all-around development in the major leagues because of their relationship.
Since Rogers went to the injured list, Mize, Skubal and Manning have worked with catchers Eric Haase, Dustin Garneau and Grayson Greiner.
Considering the severity of Rogers’ injury, Haase will enter the offseason penciled in as the team’s starting catcher for the 2022 campaign. The 28-year-old rookie is hitting .234 with 20 home runs, 54 RBIs, 20 walks and 96 strikeouts in 81 games, but he still has a lot to prove — as does Rogers — before becoming established.
So don’t be surprised if the Tigers add a veteran catcher this winter.
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Learn extra on the Detroit Tigers and join our Tigers e-newsletter.
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