Former No. 1 pick returns to mound
Rogers pitches three scoreless innings after missing two years
It had been two years and eight months since Mark Rogers had thrown a pitch in a professional game.
The Milwaukee Brewers had to like what they saw from the former fifth overall pick when he took the mound for the Brevard County Manatees on Friday night against the Daytona Cubs at Jackie Robinson Ballpark.
He did, too.
"I was excited," Rogers admitted after pitching in a Minor League game for the first time since Aug. 18, 2006 with the Arizona League Brewers.
"I'm just very, very happy to have this opportunity again. It's great to be back on the mound facing this level of competition. I tried to settle myself down on the mound because there was a lot of anticipation. It would have been very easy to get ahead myself."
Rogers, who battled his way back from a pair of shoulder surgeries, the second of which allowed him to finally pitch pain-free, certainly didn't appear to let the excitement get to him on the hill.
Heralded as a potential ace of the future when the Brewers selected him in the first round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, the 23-year-old right-hander fired three scoreless innings in the Manatees' 7-6 loss to the Cubs.
"I just slowed the game down," Rogers said after allowing two hits and a walk with one strikeout before approaching his 50-pitch limit for the night. "That's the beauty of being a pitcher. You can make the game work at your own pace."
After surrendering a one-out single to Marwin Gonzalez in the opening frame, Rogers escaped trouble when he stranded Gonzalez at second by striking out Jovan Rosa to end the inning.
A leadoff walk to Dylan Johnston in the second was erased when Rogers got Marquez Smith to hit into a double play before Andrew Rundle lined out to second base.
Rogers yielded another one-out single to Starlin Castro in the third, but Nate Samson flied out and Castro was caught stealing, capping a confidence-building performance for the 6-foot-2, 230-pound Brunswick, Maine native.
"It was awesome," Rogers said. "You can't expect to go out there and go three-up, three-down every time. It's all about staying in the moment. The one thing this process has taught me is to feel comfortable out there and enjoy playing baseball."
While fulfilling his ultimate dream of making the Major Leagues is still off in the distance, Rogers is looking forward to working his way up through the Brewers' system. He's also glad the organization continued to have faith in him.
"The Brewers had a lot of patience with me," he said. "I was never at the point where I was pain-free after the first surgery. After they cleaned up some scar tissue, I came back and started throwing bullpens again last December.
"The first time I went out there and felt great was Spring Training, and tonight was the first real test. My arm answered the test."
Rogers also admitted that for now his top priority is remaining healthy, but he indicated that Double-A Huntsville would be a great place to finish up his first full season in the Minors since 2006.
"I just want to go out and take the ball every fifth day," he said. "Tonight was a step in the right direction. I'd like to advance levels, but that's one of the things that's out of my hands. If I pitch well, I can move up and perhaps pitch at Huntsville by the end of year."
John Torenli is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.