Rojas making the most of new opportunity

Zephyrs shortstop Miguel Rojas makes a turn in a recent series against Omaha. Photo by: Dennis Hubbard

Zephyrs shortstop Miguel Rojas makes a turn in a recent series against Omaha. Photo by: Dennis Hubbard

When Miguel Rojas made his major league debut last season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, he struggled after being relegated to a pinch-hitting role and finished with a .181 batting average.

“Coming off the bench, it’s not easy,” Rojas said. “It’s not an excuse as to why I struggled, but if you see the numbers, the first couple of weeks I was doing better because I was playing every day. But when I was in a bench role, it was difficult because I have never been in that role in my career.”

After being acquired in a blockbuster seven-player trade with Los Angeles over the winter, Rojas has seen his numbers take off, playing regularly for the Zephyrs and playing his natural shortstop position in manager Andy Haines’ lineup.

“I’m really happy because they [Miami] gave me the opportunity to play every day and play the position I really like at shortstop,” Rojas said.

Over the Zephyrs’ first 22 games, Rojas has elevated his game to new heights, collecting at least one hit in 20 games and leading the team with a .354 batting average, in addition to playing Gold Glove-caliber defense up the middle.

In the most recent Zephyrs series against Oklahoma City, now the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate, Rojas went 4-for-12 with two runs scored and a pair of RBIs. But his biggest contribution of the year, to date, came on May 6, when he pushed across the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth with a double and then robbed a potential single up the middle with a diving catch, saving a New Orleans victory.

“That felt so good, not because it’s the Dodgers, but it was a great team win because everybody pulled together to win that game. For me, I was in the right place and the right position and I felt a little lucky to catch it,” he said.

It’s just another positive moment for Rojas in his first season with the Marlins organization, one he’s relishing after two seasons with Dodgers’ affiliates in Chattanooga and Albuquerque.

“I had two great years in the Dodgers organization and I’m really thankful for the opportunity they gave me to play in the big leagues,” Rojas said. “I’m just trying to help the team win every day. It’s important in a long season, to be a good guy in the clubhouse. You have to have fun every day and being a part of this team has been great because it’s been a great group of guys so far.”

Rojas’ .354 average is tied with teammate Brady Shoemaker for the sixth-best mark in the Pacific Coast League, and he has five sacrifice hits this year, tied for the PCL lead. His 12-game hitting streak that lasted from April 12-25 stands as the second-longest streak in the league this year, and Rojas is currently riding a seven-game hitting streak in which he’s batted .385 (10-26).

Rojas said that he’s learned a lot from his struggles in the big leagues with Los Angeles in 2014, and he’s applying that to this season and beyond.

“It’s all about confidence and timing. Your time is going to come, you have to be patient,” he said. “Last year taught me a lot and if I have to be a bench player when I get to the big leagues again, I’m going to be prepared for that. But, you can’t just look at what’s happening now, you have to play for the future and career. I want to just be positive and I have to think, ‘I’m here in Triple-A because they want me here.'”

It’s safe to say the Zephyrs are glad Rojas is in New Orleans, stabilizing the top of the lineup and fortifying a defensive unit that leads the PCL with just 10 errors in 934 chances, with Rojas’s .989 fielding percentage ranking second amongst all PCL shortstops.

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