D-backs 3B Josh Rojas keeping consistent mindset despite injuries
Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman Josh Rojas entered spring training with a mindset of not trying to do much, staying consistent and letting the numbers fall where they may.
Those goals have been tested by a start to the season impacted by multiple injuries for the 27-year-old.
Rojas suffered an oblique strain in spring training that held him out of the first 26 games. He returned to add a stable force in the lineup and hit a groove after a few games of getting back into it.
“He’s a pro,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said in a press conference Thursday evening. “When he wasn’t in the lineup for the first month of the season, we talked about some synergy. He was missed.”
On May 20, Rojas had a career day at the plate, hitting three home runs for the first time in his MLB career against the Chicago Cubs.
Rojas was welcomed the next day with a fastball to his left hand on a check swing. His hand swelled up like a rubber glove inflated with air.
“That sucked,” Rojas said. “I mean, the biggest thing I was hoping it wasn’t broken. I was pretty nervous when I saw it swelling up so fast.”
His X-Rays came back negative — disaster averted as he feared missing another extended period of time. The left-handed bat missed only three more games before returning.
That hand was still a bit swollen as of Saturday, but that did not hamper him from delivering four hits and three RBIs in two games Thursday and Friday against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Rojas’ MLB career has been surrounded by inconsistency he has had to overcome.
He came up in 2019 with Arizona and played 41 games to get his feet wet. The following season was cut to 60 games due to the COVID-19 pandemic and disagreements between the league and the MLBPA. Rojas played in only 17 games in 2020.
The Valley native bounced back to become one of Arizona’s most reliable bats during a tumultuous 2021 campaign for the club, batting .287 with 11 home runs and an OPS of .837 through Aug. 20.
He suffered a shoulder injury in the middle season, though, which led to a decline in his numbers. He remained in the lineup but hit .200 over his final 36 games.
The infielder’s offseason was dedicated to shoulder surgery and rehab before spring trining.
His goals were clear upon his return.
“Just put together as many good at-bats as I can and see what happens at the end of the year,” Rojas said. “I think, if I can keep that goal throughout the year, then hopefully, the numbers will stay consistent.”
JOSH ROJAS WITH A 3 HOMER GAME! pic.twitter.com/ahzwziqWTN
— Bally Sports Arizona (@BALLYSPORTSAZ) May 20, 2022
That remains his approach, and the D-backs have utilized him in the top of the order since his return from the hand contusion.
Lovullo described Rojas as a gamer with an extra component of focus, preparation and, so far this season, results.
His 0.9 WAR (wins above replacement) is sixth on the team despite the lost time.
“He’s finally gotten hot, he gets banged up, so it’s just too bad that he had a setback, but I think he’s ready to step right in there,” Lovullo said. “He’s a good baseball player, a very good baseball player.”
Rojas’ production has been reminiscent of his early-season successes last year thus far with an OPS of .856.
He realizes, though, that it’s a short sample size and baseball humbles those who get too high or low.
“You’re gonna have hot and cold streaks and hopefully I’m just able to manage those cold streaks to keep them shorter,” Rojas said.
“I think it’s just trying to stay on top of what my routine is and keep everything consistent. When those tough times come, because they will come, you just got to try to manage them and keep them to a couple of days.”
Rojas is batting second for Arizona Sunday against the Los Angeles Dodgers. First pitch is at 1:10 p.m.
Tune to 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sport Station for the action.