Detroit Tigers 'less optimistic' about injured catcher Jake Rogers returning in 2021

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As the clock ticks, the Detroit Tigers aren't sure if they will have enough time to get catcher Jake Rogers back from his injury this season, which concludes Oct. 3 against the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field.

The 26-year-old has been on the injured list since July 19 with right arm soreness.

"I'm growing less optimistic about the year," manager AJ Hinch said Monday. "We're closing in on a throwing program that needs to accelerate. It's not accelerating. He's hit a little bit, not a lot. Now we're just fighting the calendar and how fast we can push him. I don't think it's going great."

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Detroit Tigers pitcher Gregory Soto (65) celebrates with catcher Jake Rogers (34) after the Tigers' 1-0 win over Cleveland at Comerica Park in Detroit on Wednesday, May 26, 2021.
Detroit Tigers pitcher Gregory Soto (65) celebrates with catcher Jake Rogers (34) after the Tigers' 1-0 win over Cleveland at Comerica Park in Detroit on Wednesday, May 26, 2021.

Rogers experienced a breakthrough over 38 games this season, after being called up May 7 from Triple-A Toledo. Along with an improved .239 batting average, Rogers delivered five doubles, three triples, six home runs and 17 RBIs, striking out 11 times and drawing 46 walks. (In 2019, he hit .125 over 35 games.)

More importantly, Rogers showed he can be an excellent defender. At the time of his injury, he was penciled in as the starting catcher with Eric Haase as his backup. Without Rogers, the Tigers currently feature the combination of Haase as the starter and journeyman Dustin Garneau as the backup.

"I don't think we've completely shut down the idea yet, but we're aiming for a couple weeks at the end of the season being the best-case scenario," Hinch said. "Now you start chiseling into that, I'm a little concerned that he may not make it back. It's not the end all be all. It was more of a confidence thing and checkmark the box on a health thing, but we'll see how the end of September plays out."

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One of three prospects acquired in the 2017 Justin Verlander trade, Rogers took a crucial step forward in his development this year. He has done enough that the organization feels confident about him as the starter in 2022, although general manager Al Avila could sign a veteran catcher to make the competition interesting in spring training.

And for Rogers' growth to continue, the Tigers will consider keeping him active this offseason.

"Maybe winter ball," Hinch said. "We'll see how his health is and where he needs to be for us to move forward with our plans for the winter."

Roster notes

Minor promotion: Outfielder Daniel Cabrera was promoted Monday from High-A West Michigan to Double-A Erie. In his first year of professional baseball, the 22-year-old hit .242 with nine home runs, 64 RBIs, 34 walks and 95 strikeouts over 99 games for the Whitecaps. Cabrera also posted 19 doubles and six triples. The Tigers selected him No. 62 overall in the 2020 draft from LSU.

Joining Wednesday: When MLB rosters expend from 26 to 28 players Sept. 1, the Tigers will activate utility player Niko Goodrum (left groin strain) and right-hander Wily Peralta (right finger blister) from the injured list. Goodrum has been sidelined since Aug. 12; Peralta went down Aug. 22. Upon Peralta's return, he will start Wednesday's game against the Oakland Athletics at Comerica Park.

Demoting Foley: After Sunday's 2-1 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, the Tigers optioned righty reliever Jason Foley to Triple-A Toledo. He pitched the sixth inning and did not allow a run, despite walking two batters and using 23 pitches. Over six appearances this season, the 25-year-old rookie has a 2.84 ERA over 6⅓ innings with two walks, three hit batters and two strikeouts. To replace him, the Tigers called up Miguel Del Pozo from the Mud Hens.

"It's not a message to Jason as much as we need fresh arms," Hinch said. "We're going to have to do this. With the piggyback, tandem starters that we've had, the bullpen arms, how we're going to protect our pitching, you're going to see these fresh arms. You could see different guys on the roster, off the roster to come up and down when needed."

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Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Jason Foley walks off the mound during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays, Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021, in Detroit.
Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Jason Foley walks off the mound during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays, Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021, in Detroit.

Dingler's rehab: As part of a rehab assignment, Double-A Erie catcher Dillon Dingler has played two games for Low-A Lakeland. He is hitting .111 (1-for-9) with one RBI and three strikeouts. The 22-year-old went to the injured list Aug. 6 with a fractured finger on his left hand. He is ranked No. 4 in the Tigers' organization, according to MLB Pipeline. Hinch said Dingler will be a candidate to play in the Arizona Fall League after the regular season.

Prospects in Toledo: Over 12 games for Triple-A Toledo, first baseman Spencer Torkelson has a .188 batting average (9-for-48) with two doubles, one triple, two home runs, eight RBIs, six walks and 13 strikeouts. Outfielder Riley Greene is hitting .267 (12-for-45) with one triple, two homers, 11 RBIs, eight walks and 17 strikeouts across his 12 games. Torkelson and Greene are ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the team's farm system. They were promoted Aug. 16 from Erie to Toledo.

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com 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: Detroit Tigers 'less optimistic' about Jake Rogers for 2021