HomeOther Philly SportsJohan Rojas Unveils New Batting Stance in Spring Opener

Johan Rojas Unveils New Batting Stance in Spring Opener

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Johan Rojas Unveils New Batting Stance in Spring Opener

There’s not much drama this year at Phillies camp. The starting rotation is set. The bullpen is set, save a spot or two. The bench is set, except the last spot.

All eyes for the next month will be trained on Johan Rojas. The only player who must actively earn his way into a starting role, the Phillies are keeping no secrets about the Rojas puzzle in Clearwater. Swim; he’ll start. Sink; he’ll also start, but probably in Triple-A.

They wasted no time making it clear they want to see what he’ll do with the opportunity. Rojas was one of just two players (David Dahl) on either side with four plate appearances in Saturday’s opener against the Blue Jays. Each one was better than the last. The guess here is that Rojas doesn’t play on Sunday, which offers a little extra time to dissect how Game 1 went for the player with the most to gain — and the most to lose — before Opening Day.

AB No. 1: Five-pitch strikeout vs. RHP Chad Dallas

Rojas brought quite a different look to his first at bat of the spring: His hands were much higher in his stance than last year, his front foot was now open and the much-discussed bulk he added over the offseason was noticeable. The result, though, was a lot more of the same: Rojas fouled off and watched hittable pitches for strikes, and after spitting on a couple curveballs to work the count to 2-2, he waved at a slider off the plate — a good pitch, but the kind that he struggled to recognize last year.

AB No. 2: Three-pitch infield single vs. RHP Abdiel Mendoza

Rojas’ second at bat of the day was his shortest one. He passed up on a first-pitch sinker just below the zone, then took a sinker on the inner half to make it 1-1 — both good pitches from Jays righty Abdiel Mendoza. Rojas got slightly fooled on the third pitch, a cutter off the plate, and bounced one up the middle at 71.4 mph. It wound up as an infield single, but had the second base bag not been in the way of Jays second baseman Santiago Espinal, it may have been a groundout.

The important thing for Rojas, though, is putting the ball in play. He’s been working on his bunting down in Clearwater for that reason. (More than a quarter of his MLB plate appearances last year were strikeouts.) Good things happen when players with Rojas’ speed put bat on ball, and in this case, it did.

AB No. 3: Seven-pitch strikeout vs. LHP Brendon Little

Rojas worked his longest at bat of the day vs. Jays southpaw Brendon Little in the fourth. He couldn’t hold up on a first-pitch slider in the dirt, but after failing to catch up on a fastball to make it 0-2, Rojas fouled off two pitches (both in the zone) and took a couple balls (one just a hair below the zone) to work the count even. Little made a big pitch with his next offering, freezing Rojas on a fastball that just caught the top of the zone, but Rojas’ ability to work his way back into the count was encouraging.

AB No. 4: Four-pitch triple vs. RHP Yosver Zulueta

Phillies manager Rob Thomson let Rojas take a fourth plate appearance in the hopes of ending his day on a good note, and it paid off. With the Phillies leading by one, two in scoring position and two outs in the fifth — a big spot if it wasn’t February — Rojas took a first-pitch sinker for a strike, then got fooled on a slider to fall behind 0-2. Hard-throwing Jays righty Yosver Zulueta then threw a sinker a mile outside, and when he came back with another sinker on 1-2, Rojas went up and got it. Despite it being 96 mph and above the zone, Rojas smoked it 99.6 mph off the base of the wall in deep right-center field for a two-run triple.

Rojas hit 22 balls harder than 99.6 mph last season at the MLB level; four went for extra bases. He won’t do that every game, but that combination of contact and speed can help Rojas do more than enough to win — and keep — the starting center-field job.

Of course, it’s just one game. We’ll have three (or four) more plate appearances to break down in a couple days. For now, though, Johan Rojas is batting .500 with a 1.500 OPS.






The Toronto Blue Jays are in first place in the American League East.

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