SALT LAKE CITY — Colorado Rockies top prospect Brendan Rodgers admits that it’s hard to keep all of the fanfare and “what ifs” about when his Major League debut will happen completely out of his mind. But he’s not the one to blame for that distraction.
“I try to stay away from reading all of the social media stuff. It’s hard though when my mom sometimes reads it off to me or sends it to me or talks to me about it,” Rodgers smiled. “I’m like, ‘Let’s not talk about this, alright? Let’s just let it happen.’ I just try to not put too much pressure on myself and try to take it easy and do my thing.”
Brendan Rodgers confesses that that wasn’t the case last season when his promotion from Double-A Hartford to Triple-A Albuquerque had Colorado Rockies fans seemingly counting the days until he made the jump to the Major League level. However, after hitting .275/.342/.493 in Hartford in 95 games, Rodgers struggled to a .232/.264/.290 clip in 18 Triple-A games while dealing with a shoulder injury.
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This season, the 22-year-old Rodgers came into Thursday night’s game against Salt Lake City with a .265/.364/.456 slash line. The difference?
“Mindset. Usually when you have a lot of pressure on you, you try to do too much sometimes, which I kind of did last year,” Rodgers admits. “This year, I’m going to go with what I know best. Stay calm, cool and collected. Don’t overdo it. Get done what you need to get done in the game and it will all pan out.”
Part of the mindset comes from what he learned during his second spring training stint with the Rockies. Colorado manager Bud Black told reporters on the day that Rodgers was assigned to Triple-A in March that he had made “great strides” on the offensive part of his game. Rodgers has learned that those great strides aren’t going to show every game and he is working to eliminate ups and downs at the plate as much as he can.
“I started off pretty well then I went through a little funk, but I’m starting to figure it out again,” Rodgers told me right after the Isotopes finished batting practice at Smith’s Ballpark. “I’m just going back to my simple approach. Staying short to the ball and hitting the ball hard.”
While he’s focusing on staying consistent at the plate, he’s also working on his versatility. Keeping up a theme Rockies fans saw in spring training, Rodgers is bouncing between three positions with the Isotopes. Heading into Thursday’s game (where he started at third base and batted fifth), Rodgers had played second base in 13 games while taking the field at shortstop twice and third base in three games.
It’s a heavy load but Rodgers understands how much the Rockies crave versatility out of their players.
“I’m learning to master all three,” Rodgers said. “I played a lot of short growing up and mainly was shortstop throughout my career. But I’m playing a lot of second base as of late and getting it all down. Third base feels pretty comfortable too. It’s the most difficult of all three. But working with (Josh) Fuentes and getting to see Nolan (Arenado) in spring training helps a lot.”
It also helps knowing each base brings with it a different set of responsibilities and things to work on every night.
“Third base is more reaction and then you gather yourself and take your time,” Rodgers explained. “I like to usually get rid of it. I don’t like to shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, throw. I like to shuffle, throw and get it out of my hand and let the first baseman do his thing over there. Second base, just working around the bag and turning double plays. Getting the feel for that and where the ball takes you. Using your feet to get that throw going.”
For now, Rodgers isn’t concerned about when he’ll get the call to join the Rockies. He’s more focused about what he can do now to be as ready as he can be when his name is called.
“Stay consistent at the plate and on defense overall,” Rodgers said of his focus. “I struggled a little bit at the start of the season but I feel really good right now. I feel like the confidence is coming back and that’s carrying over to defense as well.”