Earning his first major league victory. An unexpected comparison to Clayton Kershaw. Pitching in the playoffs.
The 2020 baseball season wildly exceeded what left-handed pitcher Trevor Rogers imagined for himself.
The 6-foot-5, 215-pound Rogers, who turned 23 on Friday, went 1-2 in seven regular-season starts this year for the Miami Marlins, posting a 6.11 ERA with 39 strikeouts/13 walks in 28 innings.
Rogers earned his MLB victory on Aug. 31, at Citi Field in New York against the Mets.
He said he will spend a large chunk of his offseason in his native Carlsbad, where he graduated from high school in 2017. The Journal caught up with Rogers Saturday for a wide-ranging Q&A as he reflected on this most memorable of rookie seasons.
Journal: 2020 has been so massively frustrating and depressing for so many people, but are you one of the few people who will reflect on this year as a good one?
Rogers: I would say as crazy as 2020 has been for a lot of people, it’s been a very good year for me, personally.
J: You only had a handful of innings in Double-A coming into this season. Could you ever have imagined when this year began that you’d not only pitch in the majors, but become a regular starter in the Miami rotation, pitch in Yankee Stadium and appear in a playoff game?
Rogers: Going into spring training, if you would have told me that, that I’d be pitching in Yankee Stadium and such, I would have kind of believed you … but it wouldn’t be this year. It would be next year. It was definitely surprising.
J: As you think back to spring, what were your expectations for this season?
Rogers: Looking back, definitely just getting acclimated with all the big-league guys, and seeing where my talent was compared to big-league talent.
J: Did you have it in your head that Triple-A would be the most logical place?
Rogers: Double-A would have been the most logical, and ending the season in Triple-A would have been my best-case scenario going into this year.
J: Assess your performance this year. Strengths, weaknesses, areas you plan to focus on during this offseason.
Rogers: I think definitely (a strength) was knowing I can compete, and compete successfully, at the highest level. And giving my team a chance to win.
Stuff I need to work on, obviously, is improving my scouting report, not falling into patterns.
J: What was the feedback you received from the team, including your manager, Don Mattingly, after the season?
Rogers: They just said, you had a really good year, (that) the numbers don’t show it yet, but that with time, that will come, me getting some experience.
It was my second time facing the Braves that I think I gave up four runs, but in my last two innings, I struck out the side, and Mattingly came up to me and told me that I had that ‘it’ factor. He said, “I was with (Clayton) Kershaw for a long time, and he had that same thing.” Coming from Don Mattingly, it meant a lot coming from him.
J: Is it your belief that you’ll be a regular part of this rotation again next year?
Rogers: That’s my goal. That’s my job to lose. You’ll have to pull it away from me.
J: Best hitter you faced this year?
Rogers: Freddie Freeman (the National League MVP from Atlanta). And I know he had a down year, but J.D. Martinez (of the Red Sox), he was pretty dangerous to face.
J: So much has been made of the great young arms the Marlins have. How special is this group and what, if anything, did you learn watching them and being around them?
Rogers: It’s great to watch how young we are and how successful we are. I think they called us the ‘Young Guns.’ As much talent as we’ve got, it was special to watch.
J: Miami was coming off a 105-loss season in 2019, and then the Marlins became sort of the darlings of MLB with their run toward the playoffs. Describe what it was like to be part of that playoff chase in September and playing October baseball.
Rogers: I couldn’t ask for more. Probably the only thing I could have asked for was to win the World Series.
Getting some playoff experience in my first big league season, you can’t ask for much more than that. We weren’t heavily loaded with playoff experience, but we had that screw-it mentality, like, what do we have to lose?
J: You haven’t played for many professional managers. Talk about playing for Don Mattingly and why he deserved to be the NL Manager of the Year.
Rogers: He’s probably one of the most even-keeled managers that I’ve ever been around. He doesn’t get too high, he doesn’t get too low, and he just talks to you like a regular guy. Very down to earth. Even outside of baseball, he’ll get to know you a little bit, and just having a manager like that is pretty cool.
J: On Friday, Miami became the first franchise in the four major professional sports to hire a woman to be its general manager. What are your thoughts on the Marlins hiring Kim Ng?
Rogers: She’s obviously qualified, she’s been in baseball for a very long time. She knows what the heck she’s doing. … If she can help us get closer to a championship, I’m all for it.
J: Was there any one moment during this season that stands out to you as a personal highlight?
Rogers: Facing that Braves lineup, and striking out the last six batters I faced. Just the mentality of flipping the switch. I started attacking, and making pitches when I needed to.