By Todd Rosiak, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel –
MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Brewers manager Ron Roenicke wasn’t quite ready to say that Friday night was Mark Rogers’ final appearance of 2012.
But if it was, the rookie right-hander leaves having made a heck of an impression heading into the 2013 season.
Rogers won his third consecutive start, scattering five hits, a run and two walks while striking out five over 5 1/3 innings. His outing, combined with another big game by the Brewers’ offense, paved the way for a 9-3 drubbing of the flagging Pittsburgh Pirates at Miller Park.
Rogers (3-1), the Brewers’ first-round pick in 2004, has had all sorts of starts and stops on his way to the big leagues, including two shoulder surgeries, surgery on both his wrists to alleviate carpal tunnel syndrome, and a 25-game suspension for using a supplement tainted with a stimulant.
With all that in mind, the Brewers understandably want to tread lightly with the 26-year-old, who’s projecting as an important member of next season’s rotation, and keep his innings (134 1/3, including 18 starts for Class AAA Nashville) at a manageable level.
“We’ve talked. I don’t want to say one way or the other whether it is or not,” Roenicke said when asked if Rogers was indeed done for the season, which is what team principal owner Mark Attanasio said on the TV broadcast.
“Usually I talk to (general manager) Doug Melvin about those things. Until Doug tells me go ahead and let Mark (Rogers) know, I feel better then making comments on it.”
Rogers, for his part, doesn’t think he’s quite done yet.
“I don’t feel like it is,” he said. “I feel I still have to do everything to prepare for my next start. Having been injured, the last thing I want to do is get hurt again, so I’ll be brutally honest with them. But I feel good right now.”
The Brewers figured to have their hands full coming into this one, facing right-hander Jeff Karstens.
After all, this was the same Karstens who shut the Brewers out over seven innings on Aug. 25 at PNC Park in a game the Pirates won, 4-0.
But Karstens was in trouble from the outset.
Nyjer Morgan led off with a double. Rickie Weeks then singled and stole second. After Ryan Braun struck out, Aramis Ramirez singled both Morgan and Weeks in for a 2-0 Brewers lead.
Corey Hart then followed with a big two-run homer to left to make it 4-0. After Jonathan Lucroy singled to right, Pittsburgh’s trainer jogged out to confer with Karstens.
A short conversation between the two and manager Clint Hurdle ensued, and Karstens was lifted with what the team described as right hip-flexor discomfort.
Staked to that 4-0 lead, Rogers had little trouble with the Pirates.
He didn’t allow his first base runner until the third inning, and it wasn’t until the fourth when Garrett Jones homered to right that Pittsburgh got onto the scoreboard.
The Pirates looked to be threatening when Pedro Alvarez singled and Michael McKenry doubled immediately after Jones’ round-tripper. But Rogers buckled down to prevent any further damage.
In doing so, though, Rogers’ pitch count escalated quickly — one of the issues he’s going to have to address as he tries to break spring training in the Brewers’ rotation for 2013.
Rogers struck out Jones to open the sixth but then walked Alvarez, leaving him at 107 pitches on the night. Roenicke made the trek out to the mound to get him, and Rogers departed to a nice ovation.
The Brewers, who added another run on a wild pitch in the fourth inning, broke the game open in the eighth.
Ramirez blasted a two-run, 432-foot homer off the scoreboard in center field, tying him with Braun for the National League lead with 66 extra-base hits. Carlos Gomez added an RBI double and Jean Segura an RBI single to close things out.