Of all of the issues the Dodgers have come to understand about Miguel Rojas this spring, two of the largest must do together with his toes.
There’s Rojas’ nimble footwork within the infield, a pure agility that has made the 34-year-old the most effective defensive shortstops within the main leagues.
Then there’s his obsession with customized sneakers and cleats, a vibrant assortment of colourful sneakers that epitomize the assured swagger he performs with.
“His shoe sport,” supervisor Dave Roberts jokingly stated this week, “is fairly tight.”
Within the wake of Gavin Lux’s knee harm that got here on the finish of the season, the Dodgers will want all of Rojas’ play to be equally noticeable in 2023.
Initially acquired in a January commerce from the Miami Marlins to function a part-time utility participant on the Dodgers’ bench this season, Rojas was as a substitute thrust into an unlikely beginning function this week.
With Lux out this yr with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and no different pure shortstops on the Dodgers’ main league roster, Rojas is lined as much as play 75-80% of the workforce’s video games, barring one, based on Roberts. new affect acquisition by the entrance workplace for the common season.
That proposition may put some followers off, given Rojas’ deficiencies on the document — he’s solely produced above league common twice in 9 seasons — and his growing age.
Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman hasn’t closed the door on the Dodgers making an affect addition that would change roster roles once more earlier than spring’s finish, although he acknowledged Friday morning that such a transfer would possible be extra possible across the commerce deadline mid-season.
So for now, Rojas is gearing up like he will probably be a starter within the Dodgers opening day lineup.
And through a number of scrums with reporters this week, he has been vocal about desirous to seize the chance and embrace an unexpected problem.
“I’m not going to take (it) as a right,” he stated. “I do know what I’ve to do to be a part of a profitable workforce.”
This will probably be no unknown duty for the 10-year veteran.
“It’s how I specific my persona. Once I really feel good and look good, I’m going out with lots of confidence.”
— Dodgers shortstop Miguel Rojas on his customized cleats
After debuting with the Dodgers in 2014 after which being traded to the Marlins within the offseason together with Dee Gordon and Dan Haren, Rojas turned Miami’s main shortstop for the previous 5 years.
Throughout that point, Rojas posted the third-best fielding share (.983) amongst certified Main Leaguers on the place. He additionally ranked fifth in that group in defensive factors saved with 23, together with a Nationwide League-best 15 final season alone.
“Each time we performed towards the Marlins, at residence and there, I at all times watched what he did,” stated Dodgers third base coach and infield guru Dino Ebel. “Even between turns, how he presents himself, he’s an actual professional.”
Nevertheless, the sudden developments of the previous week have compelled Rojas to regulate his spring routine.
On Thursday, the Venezuelan introduced his withdrawal from the World Baseball Basic, a call he made after a gathering in Roberts’ workplace with supervisor, Friedman and common supervisor Brandon Gomes.
“I have to be prepared for the season,” stated Rojas, who may nonetheless play within the WBC, however solely within the unlikely occasion that different adjustments to Venezuela’s roster would permit him to play a extra distinguished function within the workforce .
“I really feel actually, actually unhealthy that I’m not going to symbolize Venezuela as a result of it’s one thing I actually needed to do,” he added. “However I don’t know if I’m going to get two at bats or 20 at bats or 15 at bats (within the WBC). And proper now, a very powerful factor for me is to proceed to bond (with the Dodgers) and put the group comfy.”
To that finish, the Dodgers velocity up their work with Rojas’ swing.
Whereas the shortstop is a .260 profession hitter who yearly data among the lowest strikeout percentages in MLB, he additionally has just one season of not less than 10 residence runs and is coming off arguably his worst offensive marketing campaign in 2022, when he had achieved outcome. -below common 0.605 on-base-plus-slugging share whereas hampered by proper hand and wrist accidents.
The Dodgers are hoping that Rojas can preserve his bat-to-ball abilities whereas including extra pop to the plate. They’ve targeted on bettering the mechanics of his decrease half. They’ve inspired him to be extra aggressive when he will get right into a batter’s rely.
“It gained’t be his job to hold us offensively,” stated Roberts. “However we anticipate that skilled at bat. And I feel with the knowledge we have now and the sport prep, I nonetheless imagine there’s much more than there was.
Rojas may also have to assist herd a newly designed Dodgers infield.
The significance of the shortstop function was already amplified for groups this yr, due to new MLB guidelines prohibiting defensive shifts. And it could possibly be particularly essential for the Dodgers early within the season as they brace for rising pains from rookie Miguel Vargas at second base.
“Big,” stated Roberts when requested how a lot Rojas may assist his new doubles companion. “Having Rojas by his aspect will assist Vargas’ depth, sense of urgency and deal with issues. It goes up a lot quicker.”
Rojas has beforehand led a playoff push as an on a regular basis participant.
It gained’t be his job to hold us offensively. However we anticipate that skilled at bat.”
— Dodgers supervisor Dave Roberts on Miguel Rojas
Within the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, he posted profession highs in batting common (.304), slugging share (.496), and OPS (.888) to assist the Marlins squeak in an expanded postseason discipline and the Chicago Cubs in a wild battle to beat card spherical upset.
“He was our captain,” stated present Dodgers reliever and then-Marlins rookie Alex Vesia. “No less than that’s how I noticed him.”
That season was additionally the yr the place Rojas cemented one other of his defining traits, starting a set of customized boots that now rival these of different gamers within the main leagues.
Born out of Rojas’ love of NBA type and tradition, that keenness started in earnest with a well-timed view of a well-turned doubles play.
The snap, taken in the course of the second sport of the 2020 season, reveals Rojas leaping over Bryce Harper at second base together with his legs kicked out to both aspect. solar in simply the appropriate mild.
“They received lots of consideration from that play,” Rojas stated, “and the photographs.”
Rojas’ shoe obsession has solely grown since then. He has a line of specifically painted sneakers by means of a collaboration with Stadium Customized Kicks, nicknamed Miggy’s Locker. He has a number of variations of Jordan and Nike-branded cleats—primarily store-bought basketball sneakers with spikes on the underside—which have grow to be the awe of the Dodgers camp this spring.
“It’s how I specific my persona,” Rojas stated. “If I really feel good and look good, I’m going out with lots of confidence. It’s not going to dictate what I’m going to be as a participant. But it surely undoubtedly makes me really feel higher.”
“He’s received the swag, he’s received the appears,” stated the reliever. “However he additionally has the expertise and every part else. He’s the entire bundle.”
That’s undoubtedly what the Dodgers want from him proper now.
A defensive stalwart at shortstop. An skilled chief for younger new gamers on the workforce. A stopgap able to sustaining stability within the aftermath of this season’s first main harm.
“The explanation we traded for a man like Miguel was to guard towards potential volatility,” Roberts stated. “To have a person who performs a premium place, and we belief firstly as a defender, that’s enormous.”