BALTIMORE—Josh Rogers’ first day in the big leagues didn’t start the way he had planned. He wasn’t feeling well and then the nerves kicked in.
By the end of the day, though, Rogers felt just fine, and he had his first major league win.
Rogers, who was one of 15 players acquired in the Orioles’ two-week July trading spree, became the first to start a major league game, and the first to win one.
“I can’t even lie. I woke up sick this morning,” Rogers said. “I was pretty nervous all day and then I got to go to lunch with my family and my grandparents and my dad, mom, sister, girlfriend, so it was really good to just kind of get away from it a little bit, stop thinking about it. It was good to do that and just get away from the game for a minute.”
Rogers, 24, was one of three pitchers acquired from the New York Yankees for closer Zach Britton on July 24.
He was pitching for the Yankees’ Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre affiliate and while preparing to pitch in the next night’s game, got word while sitting with Cody Carroll during a rain delay that Dillon Tate, who’s now pitching for Bowie, would be traded to the Orioles.
“I texted Dillon; I’m really close with him. ‘Hey man, I would love to go with you,’ just kind of like joking around,” Rogers recalled.
“I know I’m not going to be traded, I’m starting tomorrow. And then, 10 minutes later, I started scrolling on Twitter. I saw my name pop up, and then Cody, we’re both sitting next to each other.
“I’m like, ‘my gosh, this is going to happen,’ so it was pretty cool. It was mixed emotions, to be drafted by the Yankees and given the opportunity to play professional baseball, I was grateful for that, the friendships and all that is one thing, but to come over here and have an opportunity to pitch in the big leagues tonight is just a dream come true.”
Rogers overcame his nervousness when he hit the field. “Really, when I started playing catch in the outfield it was everything kind of settled in,” he said. “It didn’t feel like another night, but it was just trying to throw strikes.”
Rogers sailed through his first three innings, allowing just one hit. In the fourth, he allowed a run on three hits, and then thought he was out of the inning when Teoscar Hernandez hit into a double play.
Instead, Hernandez was ruled safe at first after a review, and the inning ended up extended by two batters.
In the fifth, Justin Smoak hit a two-run homer. After Randal Grichuk singled, he got Kevin Pillar to pop to short, and his debut was over. He was the winning pitcher in the Orioles’ 12-5 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday.
About 30 family and friends came to watch Rogers pitch. Many had driven from Southern Indiana, where Rogers’ debut boosted the local economy.
“A couple of sports bars had extra service people tonight to watch the game,” Rogers said. “I think they bought the MLB package to watch it tonight. All those people and the support from my hometown has been incredible. I can’t wait to look at my phone to see what my friends had to say about tonight.”
Rogers helped the Orioles produce their second straight win, the first time they’ve won consecutive games since the trading spree. They’ll try for their first three-game sweep of the season against Toronto on Wednesday.
Tim Beckham hit a three-run home run. Craig Gentry hit a two-run shot. Chris Davis had his second three-hit game of the week.
Manager Buck Showalter hoped to get Rogers, who threw 85 pitches through five innings, into the sixth but wanted to make sure he finished the fifth.
“I didn’t want to take him out of the game, especially after seeing his mom and dad here,” Showalter said. “I would have. That was his last hitter. I’m not going to let him go anymore … I don’t know if relief is the word. I’m just proud how much that meant to him.”
Gentry, who missed significant time because of a fractured rib, watched from a distance while the team he’s played with for the past two seasons changed radically. By the time he returned last Friday, the team was very different.
At 34, Gentry is the oldest player on a suddenly much younger team.
“I’m a lot older than a lot of these guys,” Gentry said. “It’s a little weird, but I don’t feel that old, but I guess being around younger guys makes you feel young.”
Gentry’s home run was just the seventh in 600 major league games, and it was special that it came in Rogers’ debut.
“It’s awesome. I think he went out there and did a great job,” Gentry said. “For his first game, he kept himself really composed and pitched well. I don’t hit a lot of those, so they’re all special. All seven of them.”