TORONTO – Esmil Rogers’ roles this season have ranged from set-up work to mop-up duty, and the right-hander moves into a new spot Wednesday night when he makes his first start for the Toronto Blue Jays at the Atlanta Braves.
The rubber-armed 27-year-old hasn’t started in the big leagues since 2011 with the Colorado Rockies but has thrown three innings in each of his last two outings, May 21 and 24, and he’ll go as long as he can.
With the Blue Jays rotation still in a state of flux, this may not be a one and done for Rogers. Josh Johnson’s scheduled return from the disabled list June 4 will stabilize one of two rotating vacancies, while Chad Jenkins has impressed but hasn’t locked up the other.
“If Esmil has a great start, maybe we say ‘Hey, we have something here,’” general manager Alex Anthopoulos said Tuesday. “With all these guys it’s start-to-start, how they’re performing, how they’re doing.”
Throwing another wrench in the mix is Brandon Morrow leaving his outing Tuesday afternoon after just two innings with forearm soreness, and while the Blue Jays said he's still scheduled to make his next start, take that with a healthy dose of skepticism.
A strong outing from Rogers would certainly create some options for a club lacking them depth-wise at the moment, and perhaps move him a step closer to filling the swingman role departed free agent Carlos Villanueva performed so well at the past two seasons.
"I'm looking for opportunity. They gave me that opportunity, I'm going to do everything I can," said Rogers. "I try to the same because I need to pitch like this. I attack the hitters and we're going to see what's going to happen."
Rogers is 1-2 with a 4.56 ERA and 1.481 WHIP, numbers bloated by a small handful of rough nights. Worth keeping in mind is that he's pitched on three straight days twice, and back-to-back nights on two other occasions.
"I'm not here for vacation, I'm here to play baseball," he says of his workload.
Rogers plans to use his changeup Wednesday, a pitch that he drops out of the bullpen, relying only on his fastball, curveball and slider.
Otherwise, "there's nothing different about me. I'm going to keep doing everything that I'm doing right now, and try to help the team win," he said. "I don't know how long I'm going to be there, the longer I'm going to be there, I'm going to do everything that I can."
LAWRIE UPDATE: Brett Lawrie checked in Tuesday morning with his sprained left ankle "pretty stiff" in the words of manager John Gibbons, but the Blue Jays are optimistic that their third baseman should be ready to return in the next couple of days.
Anthopoulos said Lawrie was due to receive treatment all day and was hopeful that would make a difference in time for Wednesday's series opener at Atlanta.
"It wouldn't surprise me if he played (Wednesday)," said Anthopoulos.
The timing is bad with the Blue Jays unable to thin their bench by carrying an injured player as they head off for seven games in National League parks.
"We can't drag this out too long with him," Gibbons said. "We'll have a good idea at the end of the day hopefully. Definitely by (Wednesday) morning I would think."
JENKINS IMPRESSES: Jenkins, whose pitched to a 3.60 ERA through his first two starts of the season and Anthopoulos is "pretty anxious" to see how the right-hander fares Friday night in the series opener at San Diego.
"Chad's been a nice surprise," said Anthopoulos. "He throws strikes and there's a difference between control and command. Control is throwing strikes, command is hitting spots, and his command has gotten a lot better and the life on the ball, much more movement.
"He's not worried as much about velocity. Especially for guys who sink the ball, when they worry about throwing the ball hard it doesn't sink as much. I think he finally realized it's not about the velocity, just throw strikes, hit your spots and let it move. His changeup is better, his slider has gotten a lot tighter as well."
SHORT HOPS: Outfielder Rajai Davis (left oblique) is taking batting practice pain-free in Dunedin, Fla., and should get into games within the next week. Anthony Gose's fate is likely tied to his return, as Anthopoulos said, "at some point he's going to need to get back down there (to triple-A Buffalo) and play." … Both the rehabbing Johnson and R.A. Dickey are on turn June 4, but Johnson will get the start at the Giants. "We wanted to get Josh in there and we just worked everything around that," explained Gibbons. "The next go-around we're looking to give (Mark) Buehrle a day or two as well. He hasn't had that." … As the Blue Jays head off to interleague play, designated hitter Adam Lind is facing a week of unsteady playing time as a pinch-hitter and in double switches. … With Lawrie day-to-day, the Blue Jays aren't considering using Edwin Encarnacion at third base.