Josh Rojas returns from injury in Triple-A as Diamondbacks approach deadline

Jul 22, 2023, 7:30 PM

Josh Rojas...

Josh Rojas #10 of the Arizona Diamondbacks makes a diving stop in a ground ball hit by Amed Rosario #1 of the Cleveland Guardians during the fourth inning at Chase Field on June 17, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

Josh Rojas was back in the batting order, hitting third for the Triple-A Reno Aces Saturday night after missing three weeks with a back injury.

The D-backs sent him down June 19 after a turbulent offensive stretch to find his footing.

Arizona is now in a rut at 5-11 in July and looking for consistency both on offense and defense. The trade deadline is just over a week away on Aug. 1, and Arizona has scored three runs or fewer in 11 of the last 19 games.

How the next several days play out may make a difference in Arizona’s approach, general manager Mike Hazen explained this week on Arizona Sports’ Wolf & Luke.

Is this deadline the medium for a J.D. Martinez-like trade or an opportunity to add depth and retool around the margins? Hazen has said the organization is looking at internal solutions on offense, and that is where Rojas’ recovery comes into play.

“I’m hoping Josh Rojas will be back at some point in the second half,” Hazen said on Wednesday. “Getting him back to where he was in April I think would be a boost to the team.”

Rojas was sent for a rehab assignment at the Arizona Complex League Tuesday before getting activated on Saturday. He had yet to get going in Reno, as the injury held him to seven games played and 34 plate appearances.

The infielder soared out of the gate this year with a .947 OPS through April 15, building off a strong second half of 2022. He slashed .281/.369/.407 over his final 80 games last season.

But his hot start fizzled to a .607 OPS by his demotion with a 26.4% hard hit rate, down nearly 10% from 2022.

The D-backs had success with OFs Alek Thomas and Jake McCarthy after Triple-A hiatuses this year. Thomas has been a more impactful bat, entering Saturday hitting .293 with an .826 OPS in 25 games, although his lack of walks and struggles against lefties persist.

McCarthy was slashing .298/.375/.397 in 45 games since coming back with 20 stolen bases.

The D-backs have lacked consistency getting on base to manufacture runs this month. Rojas at his best has been a stubborn at-bat with a mid-.300s on-base percentage and a stolen base threat.

“I think for the most part, getting our position players to getting back to the approach that they’ve had for a while, we had one of the best offenses in baseball for the first half of the season, that should hopefully put us in a decent spot,” Hazen said.

“Then we can look and see how we can improve our pitching.”

Rojas was also playing the best defense at third base in his MLB career during the first half of the season, albeit with some regression after a stellar start.

The D-backs entered Saturday No. 8 in MLB in OPS at .756, but their third basemen rank No. 21 at .704. Rojas is a culprit there, but getting approximately 2022 production out of him would award Arizona another dynamic option down the stretch.

Other position players on the D-backs’ 40-man roster include INF prospect Blaze Alexander, OF prospect Jorge Barrosa, OF Dominic Fletcher, OF Kyle Lewis, INF Diego Castillo and OF Pavin Smith, who was sent down June 30.

Top prospect Jordan Lawlar has been excellent in Double-A (.312/.390/.560 slash and 14 steals in his last 30 games), but he has yet to make the jump to Reno.

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