Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph explains keys to guiding debuting pitcher ahead of Josh Rogers' first start

With Josh Rogers becoming the 12th Orioles player to make his major league debut this season and fourth pitcher to make his first big league start, there’s some familiarity breaking in newcomers on this stage.

While it’s Caleb Joseph’s first time behind the plate for a major league debut start this year, he said simplicity is the key in trying to shepherd a newcomer along on the biggest day of his professional life.


“First and foremost, you want to make sure you’re on the same page with his strengths and what he likes to do, where he likes to go in certain situations. It’s extremely simplistic — what’s your favorite off-speed pitch to throw when you’re behind in the count? It’s really easy, and then you hope to try to work that into the scouting report. You don’t want to try and give him too much, too quickly. They’re probably running on some adrenaline, and really excited. It’s a big moment for them, making their debut. You try and make it as simple as possible.”

That part would probably be true of a veteran who came over from another organization, and is probably commonplace early in spring training as pitchers and catchers develop that rapport. But since Rogers, who has made five starts in Triple-A Norfolk since being acquired in a four-player trade for Zach Britton with the New York Yankees, didn’t have that luxury and has never made a major league start, Joseph said you have to be more sensitive to some of the trends of the game.

Being able to pitch to a pitcher’s strength helps, but Joseph said his job on a night like Tuesday is to be “more alert in terms of things starting to kind of get out of hand” and calming that down, as well as read how teams are going to approach a pitcher they haven’t seen much of.

When Joseph first came up in 2014, he said veteran teams such as the Yankees with Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira, would take pitches more often and wait out a young pitcher they’d never seen before.

“But it seems like some of these younger teams, when they get a first-year player, it’s almost like they try to jump him early,” Joseph said. “You’ve got tot try and assess that right away as a catcher. The first hitter may really get into the at-bat, and the second hitter may try and jump ship and try to ambush. You don’t want to just throw heaters down the middle. You want to try and get into that flow of the game. It can work both ways.”

What won’t be different for Rogers on Tuesday than any other start he’s made, save for the uniform, is the importance of getting ahead and being aggressive early in counts. Manager Buck Showalter said he’s the type of pitcher who says “Here I am, let’s go, let’s compete,” which is key to Joseph’s theory on what helps debuting pitchers succeed. He caught Mike Wright Jr.’s strong debut in 2015, as well as Tyler Wilson's first start that year.

“Strike one is the biggest key that I’ve really noticed in debuts,” Joseph said. “Strike ones are huge. Once you get strike one and you get ahead in the count, there’s more room for error, and you can navigate it a little bit easier. … There are major differences in having experience with that you hope helps, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if it’s [Andrew] Cashner, [Dylan] Bundy, or Rogers, it’s probably going to come down to executing your pitch. When we’ve had good execution on pitches, we’ve had really nice starts. And when we haven’t, we haven’t had nice starts. You try and put them in positions where they can execute pitches and not ask them to do too much.”