August 8, 2009
By David Driver
For the News-Journal
Used with permission
Photo courtesy of Samantha Craig/Special to the News-Journal
DANVILLE, Va. — Cody Rogers lined a shot into the gap in right-center field here Thursday night against Danville Braves pitcher Brett Oberholtzer, who entered the night with the best ERA in the rookie Appalachian League.
The hit drove in teammate David Wendt from first base in the top of the fourth inning.
Rogers, the No. 3 hitter for the Princeton (W.Va.) Rays, could have easily stopped at second with a double. But Rogers, who signed with the Tampa Bay Rays after being drafted in the seventh round in June, sped into third base with a triple in the second game of a doubleheader.
"Speed is my game," said Rogers, a Hallsville High School graduate. "I am trying to get as many bags as I can."
That approach has worked very well in the first 29 games of the pro career for Rogers, who turned down a chance to play in college at Texas A&M to join the Rays' farm system. In his first 117 at-bats with Princeton, the center fielder has 39 hits, including four triples and, four doubles and a team-leading five home runs. He also leads the team with nine steals and is tied for the team lead with 22 RBI. His .333 average ranks among the top hitters in the league.
In a doubleheader Thursday, he had three hits in four at-bats in the first game, including a triple. He then had a triple in three at-bats in the second game, with a line out in his last at-bat of the night against a Danville team with the second-best ERA in the 10-team league.
"He is an exciting player," Princeton manager Jared Sandberg said. "He has bat speed. He has good instincts for stealing bases. He has done a good job for us hitting in the three hole. He is definitely a huge part of what our team is about."
Mitch Lukevics, the director of minor league operations for Tampa Bay, has also been impressed with the 6-foot-2, 167-pound Rogers. "He is a great athlete and that helps a lot. He is also a great person," Lukevics said in a telephone interview Thursday from Florida.
Rogers, 20, has played mostly center field for Princeton, though he has also seen time in left and right.
"In center his arm is average or just a tick below," said Sandberg, who added Rogers probably does not have a strong enough arm to play right field at higher levels.
But for now, Rogers is doing fine in center and in the third spot in the lineup. He signed soon after he was drafted after two years at Panola College in Carthage.
"I just felt this would be a good organization for me," Rogers said. "I am a speed guy and Tampa Bay, they are known for their speed. I felt this would be the place I could progress as a player and be the player I wanted to be."
Rogers has been living in a college dorm in Princeton with pitcher Kirby Yates, whose brother, Tyler, has pitched in the majors. But after a road trip this weekend to face the Burlington (N.C.) Royals, the team plans to move into a hotel while at home.
Princeton, in its first 15 home dates, averaged 998 fans which ranked sixth in the league. Rogers said the biggest adjustment to the pro game is being ready to perform regularly. "Being able to compete at this level you have to be ready," said Rogers, whose 68-game regular-season is slated to end Sept. 1.
Rogers has a very open stance at the plate, one he used in college. And the Rays have not even suggested he change his stance. "Right now it is working," said Sandberg, in an understatement.
"I have been swinging the bat okay," said Rogers, a lefty swinger who turns 21 in September. He hopes by next year he can advance to full-season low Class A Bowling Green of the South Atlantic League.