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Rockies’ Brendan Rodgers primed for shot at stardom: “I’m in a good place”

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Have the stars finally aligned for Brendan Rodgers?

The Rockies second baseman already has a 2022 Gold Glove in his trophy case, and his talent has been evident since he was the third overall draft choice out of Florida’s Lake Mary High School in 2015. Back in spring training of 2018, former Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado described Rodgers’ swing as one of the most natural, compact and powerful he’d ever seen.

Yet, for all that, Rodgers, 27, has never reached his full potential, in large part because of injuries — but also because of perplexing slumps.

But he believes his time is now.

“I feel like I’m in a good place,” Rodgers said Wednesday, eight days before the Rockies open their regular season against the Diamondbacks at Chase Field. “I’m healthy, I’m in good shape and I feel like I’ve learned so much over the last few years.”

Such as?

“I’ve learned so much more about myself as a hitter and the discipline it takes to get ready to play every day,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot more about pitchers, too. How to attack them, how to battle them, how to stay in an at-bat.”

Case in point: In Tuesday’s Cactus League game, Rodgers coaxed an eight-pitch walk out of Guardians reliever Adam Oller. It was a terrific at-bat.

In 14 spring games, Rodgers, batting primarily from the cleanup spot, is hitting .395 with a .913 OPS. He’s hit safely in 12 of 14 games.

Manager Bud Black believes that “B-Rod” is ready to put it all together.

“This is all based on his pride,” Black said. “What does he want to do? It’s pretty simple. What does he want to be as a player? That’s exhibited through performance. But I think he truly has confidence in his ability.”

Rodgers debuted in 2019, but injuries have limited him to 317 career games, with a high of 137 in 2022. His slash line is a relatively modest .265/.317/.410, and he’s hit just 32 career homers. But Black says there’s more there.

“We’ve seen his talent (with the) Gold Glove,” Black said. “I think there is a hit tool in there. That was his calling card coming out of the draft, and I still think there’s an upside to the bat. I think he’ll be the first one to tell you that.

“Now it’s about his desire and the chip on his shoulder. Those are my words, not his. There’s a chip on his shoulder to be the guy that he thinks he can be.”

Black echoes Arenado’s opinion of Rodgers’ sweet swing, but he’s been puzzled by Rodgers’ dry spells at the plate.

“That is the conundrum,” Black said. “Because his swing, to Nolan’s point, is short and compact. There is strength to it. He’s got a good, strong lower half. That should keep him away from long slumps.

“And, again, this is just me trying to answer the question. He’s been banged up, but if he’s physically in a good spot, it’s not about the swing mechanics. It might be on the mental side where he’s trying to do a little too much.”

When spring training began in February, Rodgers had a plan and goals firmly in place.

“I want to have a good start — have some quality at-bats this spring and come out swinging the bat hot early,” said Rodgers, who hit .258 with four homers and 20 RBIs in 46 games last year after returning from a left shoulder injury suffered during spring training. “After winning a Gold Glove in ‘22, the next step would be an All-Star Game. Then, obviously, the playoffs. If I can stay healthy and be consistent at the plate and on defense, I think it’ll all work out.

“But I try not to get too far ahead of myself. I try to take it day by day and stick with the routine. The goal is to get at-bats, play in the games, stay healthy and help the team win as many games as possible.”

Rodgers’ injury history

Injuries have dogged Rockies second baseman Brendan Rodgers throughout his career. A look back:

• 2019: Rodgers made his major league debut on May 17, 2019, but played in just 25 games before right shoulder surgery ended his season.

• 2020: He played only seven games in the pandemic-shortened 60-game season. He began the season at the Rockies’ alternate training site and had his contract selected on Aug. 19, but he was placed on the injured list with a right shoulder capsular strain.

• 2021: Sustained a hamstring strain during spring training and was not reinstated on the big-league roster until May 21. He played in 102 games.

• 2022: He played in a career-high 137 games, though he was on the injured list from Sept. 19-29 with a left hamstring strain.

• 2023: He was placed on the 60-day IL in March after undergoing left shoulder surgery following an injury he suffered while diving for a ball in his second Cactus League game. He returned from the 60-day IL on July 31 and played 46 games.

— Patrick Saunders, The Denver Post 

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