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Rogers becomes Maine's first06/07/2004 9:16 PM ET
By JR Radcliffe / Special to MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- For those concerned about taking a high school pitcher in the first round of the amateur draft, Brewers Assistant General Manager Gord Ash has a question.
"Who won the AL Cy Young award last year?"
The answer, Toronto Blue Jays starter Roy Halladay, was drafted out of Arvada West High School in Colorado as Toronto's first-round choice in 1995 under Ash's general manager tenure with the club. And though the Brewers are aware that only one of the team's last nine high school pitchers drafted in the first round (Jeff D'Amico) has made the big leagues, Milwaukee went north for a high school pitcher once again on Monday. Way north.
"I've heard all great things about Milwaukee," Rogers said. "The best thing I've heard is their ability to get young players through their system ... and really produce quality young players is something that I wanted the opportunity to go through."
"This kid is a really good athlete, he's a terrific hockey player, a very good soccer player," Brewers scouting director Jack Zduriencik said. "His goals and desires are things that we're going to be real excited about here in Milwaukee."
"I came into this season feeling the way I did at the end of last year," Rogers said. "My arm speed was great, my arm strength was fine. I just felt confident from the first pitch of the season up until now. I feel like I can go out there and be consistent every start.
"I feel like, right now, I'm at a level of maturity physically and mentally that I can get out there and hopefully make an impact as soon as possible," he added, pointing to Marlins pitcher Josh Beckett as a high school arm after whom Rogers modeled his own career.
With four pitches [two-seamer, four-seamer, changeup, curveball] including a fastball clocked in the 96-97 miles per hour range, Rogers managed a 3.9 grade point average in high school and also earned All-State honors in both hockey and soccer during his time at Mt. Ararat.
"We think with his aptitude, his work ethic, and his desire and commitment to baseball, we think he's a little bit better or more special than the normal high school player," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. "The one thing with Mark too, he's not burned out innings-wise, he's from the Northeast."
With typical Maine winters limiting Rogers' ability to pitch year round, many scouts failed to take notice of the 6-foot-2, 200-pound right-hander until his fastball began opening some eyes.
"He went out and threw 96, 97 mph at one of the prominent showcases on the East Coast," Baseball America's executive editor Jim Callis said in an interview with Brewers radio broadcaster Jim Powell. "He's a really good athlete, which you like to see in a pitcher. Not that he's going to be cross-training or playing multiple sports, but generally, when you're a good athlete as a pitcher, it gives you a better chance to have more consistent mechanics so you can throw strikes and have a good delivery."
Callis compared the pick to another Brewers first-rounder and high school right-hander, Mike Jones.
"Mike Jones threw that hard, too, but I don't think Mike Jones had a breaking ball as good as these guys," Callis said, speaking of Rogers and Texas righty Homer Bailey, who went to Cincinnati with the seventh overall pick. "Mike Jones has a lot of potential, but I think these guys are much more polished and refined than Jones was coming out of high school."
Jones and Rogers are two of four high school players Milwaukee has selected with first-round picks in the last five years, a trend with which Melvin has no qualms.
"I think there was this perception that Jack and I get in a room and fight over high school and college [players], I have to tell you that that's somewhat comical," Melvin said. "We felt this individual has a chance of being a No. 1 or 2 starter. We talked about it and that's how championship teams are put together. If you look at the success of teams that go out and win, it's the starting pitching.
"Going with pitching is obviously one of our needs; we thought a primary need."
Rogers, who will wait for his team to play in the Eastern Maine championship game on Tuesday before he begins negotiations with the Brewers, said he's looking forward to a smooth signing process, despite a scholarship to the University of Miami.
"I don't foresee there being any big problems," he said. "I know by Milwaukee taking me with the fifth pick, they've obviously shown an interest in me and a commitment. I'd like to do the same with them."
Rogers will attempt to become the 69th Major Leaguer from his home state, a list that includes such faces as current Milwaukee reliever Matt Kinney and former Brewer Pete Ladd.
"I'm very excited to be a part of their organization, it's something I'm looking forward to being associated with," Rogers said. "Milwaukee put a lot of faith in me, I just want to go out and prove they made the right decision."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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