Detroit – Everybody’s passion burns differently. For some, it’s like dry tinder and even the tiniest spark can start a fire.
For others, it takes a lot of heat to ignite.
Tigers catcher Jake Rogers is in the latter category. He’s getting a second chance to stick at the big-league level, a full year after his first call-up at the end of the 2019 season. But if you were looking for him to come in all hell-bent and spitting bullets — well, wrong guy.
“Obviously there’s an opportunity and I am going to run with it,” he said Saturday, before making his first big-league start since Sept. 28, 2019. “Hopefully I do pretty well and make a name for myself. If I stay up here for more than 10 days, then I do.
“If I don’t, then I will go back down and serve my time and wait.”
Manager AJ Hinch has been forthright with Rogers since the first time they talked in the offseason. Hinch is intrigued by Rogers’ natural athleticism and raw talent. He thinks Rogers should be a productive big-league catcher and, frankly, it was one of his disappointments this spring that he couldn’t bring that out of Rogers.
Hinch seems like he’s done trying to nurture and coax Rogers. With Wilson Ramos on the injured list, it’s time to just throw him in the water and let him sink or swim.
“This is probably the least amount of pressure anyone could be under in the sense that we’re going to take any positive performance we can get,” Hinch said. “He’s not a young kid anymore. He’s maturing and he should be able to handle this.
“It’s not pressure, it’s an opportunity.”
Rogers is only 26. But after five years of climbing through the minor leagues, and with prospects like Dillon Dingler and Cooper Johnson ascending in the Tigers’ organization, his window won’t stay open much longer.
Rogers, though, isn’t carrying that weight into this opportunity.
“I don’t really think of that,” Rogers said. “I just come here and play. If it’s make-or-break, it is what it is. I’m not a kid. I’m 26. I’m wanting to be up here and stay with these guys and help us win games. I don’t think it’s make-or-break.
“I’m just coming here to play and do my best.”
Rogers has a boiling point. We found that out last year when he spent the entire season at the alternate site without as much as a stint on the taxi squad. That stung him.
“It was very frustrating,” Rogers said. “You want to be up here. You put in the work to be up here and it just didn’t work out. I admit, I was angry there for a little bit. But looking back you realize being angry doesn’t help anybody.
“So now I’m just out here having fun and being myself.”
And apparently, having fun and being himself includes the faux Fu Manchu mustache he sported during spring training. It’s still there.
“I think a lot of people thought I’d shave it by now,” he said, with a smile. “I just want to prove people wrong, that I could keep it longer. The first thing AJ said when he saw me; he just shook his head, ‘I thought that was going to be gone when I saw you.’
“I’ve been rolling with it. I’ll try to keep it as long as I can. But you never know, a couple of 0-fers might change it.”
Don’t misunderstand, though. Just because he buries it under a fun-loving and easy-going persona, there’s a fire inside, a competitive fire.
“Obviously, I’m working hard to get here, that’s never going to change,” Rogers said. “I want to be here and stay here and play at the big-league level. I am not saying I don’t want to be here. I’m saying I’m being myself and playing the best I can and I’m working to be here.”
He made a strong debut, catching the Tigers’ 7-3 win and contributing a two-run single.
“Just trying to stick up here and earn a job,” Rogers said. “That’s what the big thing is — catch a W, help the pitchers and get a few hits.”