MILWAUKEE -- If this was indeed Mark Rogers' final 2012 start, then Brewers hitters helped him go out on a high note.They scored four times in the first inning Friday night and then piled on late to beat the Pirates, 9-3 at Miller Park, in what was likely the final start of Rogers' bounce-back season. The 26-year-old former first-round Draft pick allowed only one run in 5 1/3 hard-fought innings to win his third straight start after being denied in his first four starts this season and the first six starts in his career. Aramis Ramirez and Corey Hart homered, and Ramirez drove in four runs as the Brewers took the opener of a three-game series.
Principal owner Mark Attanasio told an FS Wisconsin television audience during the game that it was Rogers' final start. The Brewers have closely monitored the young right-hander's workload, considering his injury history (four surgeries, including carpal tunnel procedures on both wrists last season) plus the fact he had never thrown more than 116 innings in a season.This season, Rogers is 9-7 with a 4.42 ERA in 134 1/3 innings between Triple-A Nashville and Milwaukee. Rogers had yet to be informed of an organizational decision to shut him down, so manager Ron Roenicke held off on making it official. What did Rogers think of the prospect that this may have been his final start? "I don't feel like it is. I still feel good," Rogers said. "I've been hurt. I've been down that road before, so the last thing I want to do is get hurt. So I'm going to be brutally honest with them, and right now I feel great, so I want to keep taking the ball every five days." And if the decision is out of his hands? "I feel great about this year," Rogers said. "I feel like I've come a long way this year. I've battled my way back from injury before, so it's pretty gratifying to be here right now and be a part of this ballclub." The leading candidate to take Rogers' spot in September is 23-year-old Wily Peralta, another right-hander who has carried the "top prospect" mantle. Peralta pitched six quality innings for Nashville on Friday night, meaning he could slip right into the rotation when Rogers' spot comes up on Wednesday in Miami. Both Rogers and Peralta figure to be in the mix for a revamped 2013 Brewers starting rotation. Yovani Gallardo will be back and Mike Fiers has pitched his way into a spot. After that, the Brewers' internal candidates include Marco Estrada, Chris Narveson (assuming a successful comeback from shoulder surgery) and a slew of young arms including Rogers and Peralta. "I think [Rogers'] stuff is fantastic," Roenicke said. "Now, how that is going to play out in the long run, for the years, I don't know. But I think coming back off of surgery, the first year is always kind of an interesting year, and then the year after that -- next year -- could be even better. So we really have liked what we've seen from him, especially being able to maintain velocity late in games. Those are the kind of things that lead you to believe a guy can be a good starter." Even if he is done pitching for the season, Rogers could remain with the Brewers through September. He called his season "a whirlwind." "It was nice to get my feet wet early on this season at Triple-A, to get back in pitching shape and go from there," Rogers said. "To get back to pitching instead of just throwing. I feel like I've got to that point now." Friday's outing was a perfect example of Rogers' promise, and his challenges ahead. He varied his fastball from 90-96 mph, sitting mostly at the very high end of that spectrum, and mixed sliders, curveballs and changeups. But he needed 107 pitches for 5 1/3 innings, most of them after the Brewers had jumped to a 4-0 lead in the first. "His stuff is always good. Location, definitely, is what he is going to battle," Roenicke said. "His stuff is really good. I mean, there's not many starting pitchers who have that. Especially the explosive fastball that he has." Pirates starter Jeff Karstens recorded only one out, and allowed four Brewers runs on five hits before exiting with a right hip injury. Ramirez returned from an off-day and delivered a two-run single off Karstens to put the Brewers on the board. Corey Hart followed with a two-run home run, his 25th of the season. After the Pirates cut the deficit to 5-3, the Brewers scored four times in the bottom of the eighth inning for some breathing room. A day after scoring 11 runs in a brutal loss to the Cubs, the Brewers scored nine runs and won. "I know we could have broken it open early, but I still really like what we're doing offensively," Roenicke said.