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"Be ready," Hinch said. "You might have to go in."
A nervous Rogers accepted. The 26-year-old catcher snuck inside and went to the batting cages. He marched back out to the dugout to get the latest from Hinch, who told Rogers to get ready to pitch in the eighth inning.
Rogers hadn't pitched since a few summer ball outings in high school, or maybe it was a fall league in high school. He doesn't remember specifics, but it's been a long time. The Tigers were trailing 13-2 against the Chicago White Sox on Saturday at Comerica Park. Starter Jose Urena could not get out of the second inning, Beau Burrows vomited on the mound, and Alex Lange threw 13 balls in a row.
The Tigers needed Rogers.
"That kind of falls in the catching department and the utility infielder department," Hinch said after his team's 15-2 loss. "It's pretty direct. It's not as fun from my vantage point as it probably is for others. There's not a ton of banter. Jake wanted to stay in the game and throw a second inning, but he wasn't going to do that."
"(Michael) Fulmer looked at me and was like, 'You pitching?' " Rogers said. "I was like, 'Yeah, I think I'm going to go in for the seventh, maybe the eighth. He was like, 'All right, don't screw it up.' I said, 'Man, I couldn't be more nervous right now, so I don't think that's helping me.' When I was walking out there, it kind of got better. I was trying to have fun with it."
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Rogers quickly fell into a jam by allowing a 69 mph second-pitch single to Leury Garcia. Then, he walked Danny Mendick with four pitches. His velocity jumped to 71 mph, but he had only tossed two of his seven pitches for strikes.
"I always wanted to do it," Rogers said. "I always knew I could throw strikes, so that's what really kind of made me mad. I think I threw out a swear word on the mound. I hope the TV didn't get it. Sorry, mom, if they did. But I was mad when I walked the guy."
The Tigers wanted Rogers to throw slow.
That's what a position player is supposed to do.
"I was wearing (Eric) Haase out back there," Rogers said about his fellow catcher. "It's kind of a long game for him, and I didn't want to wear him out anymore. I kind of just nodded my head and did a little fastball motion. I was like, 'All right, I'm going to throw a little harder here.' "
The first pitch Zack Collins saw dropped in at 71 mph. He drilled it for a double to right field, scoring Garcia for a 14-2 lead.
Rogers decided to turn up his velocity a little more. His next pitch went for a called strike at 74 mph. The ensuing pitch to Brian Goodwin induced a ground ball to shortstop Isaac Paredes for an out. Still, the White Sox scored for a 15-2 lead.
Rogers kept throwing harder and pounding the strike zone.
He threw five of six pitches for strikes to Yasmani Grandal, who popped out to third baseman Harold Castro for two outs. (In the ninth, Castro pitched three up, three down. Rogers played third base.)
And Rogers' first-pitch ball to Grandal was an elevated fastball that should have been called a strike by home plate umpire Andy Fletcher. He got the third out on an 81 mph first pitch to Andrew Vaughn, who lined out to right field.
Rogers maxed out at 82 mph during Grandal's at-bat. He threw 11 of 17 pitches for strikes.
He trotted back to the dugout with a smile, wanting to pitch the ninth inning.
"You're going to third (base)," Hinch said. "Harry's pitching."
"Come on, I just started to get comfortable," Rogers said. " Let me get that ERA down."
"No, you're going to third," Hinch said.
So did Hinch.
Castro went to the mound and pitched a perfect ninth. He logged his second scoreless inning this season to maintain his 0.00 ERA across two appearances in his MLB pitching career.
Rogers didn't get any action at third base. He shook his head upon entering the dugout.
"Don't ever question my managing again," Hinch said with a laugh.
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They have a strong relationship, sparked by Hinch being an ex-catcher. He has Rogers — one of three prospects acquired in the 2017 Justin Verlander trade — playing much better than he did during his 2019 stint in the big leagues.
Rogers is hitting .229 with three homers, six RBIs, five walks and 22 strikeouts. His defense is exceptional, and he is developing a groove with 24-year-old starters Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal. Through 17 games, Rogers seems prepared to stick around.
"It's huge to have him," Rogers said about Hinch. "We kind of have the same sense of humor in the fact that he kind of rags on me. I know it's serious, but at the same time, it's a little playful. And I'm pretty sarcastic as it is. There are times where I'm serious, and there are times, like today, when I'm like, 'You got to put me back out there. I'm just now feeling it.'
"I know he doesn't want to put me back out there, but I'm kind of ragging on him a little bit. It's cool to have that relationship. He's a great guy. He's definitely been hard on me. He's yelled at me a few times, and I get it. I'm sure I needed it at the same."
With a defined role behind the plate, it's unlikely Rogers gets a chance to lower his 18.00 ERA until much later in his career. He might never take the mound again.
But if the opportunity comes up, Rogers will be prepared to throw heat.
"(Hinch) kind of mentioned that I was getting it too far out there," Rogers said. "I was like, 'Well, that's my comfortable speed, you know?' I was trying to throw slow, below the hitting speed, and then I don't even know what I hit. Someone said I hit like 82 (mph).
"He didn't like that and put Harry in there."
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Jake Rogers' Detroit Tigers pitching debut shows bond with AJ Hinch