Kumar Rocker won’t talk Mets as pro career starts at Tri-City

Kumar Rocker and agent Scott Boras believe the righty’s future is looking up, so they do not want to look back.

Rocker, who was introduced as the most famous active member ever of the Tri-City ValleyCats, an independent team in Troy, is feeling healthy and strong, he said. He has spent his strange past 10 months building strength and training to prepare for what will be his third first-year player draft. Rocker said he has been at the gym every day, whether in Tennessee, California or Boras’ sports fitness center in South Florida.

He is excited to pitch in a game for the first time since June 30. He is less excited to talk about the reasons behind his long absence from clubhouses. Boras would not allow questions concerning the 2021 draft, when the Mets made the Vanderbilt star the No. 10 pick then controversially never signed him.

In his first extended public comments since the Mets cited medical concerns in opting against signing him to the $6 million deal they had agreed upon, Rocker said simply his body is “feeling great” and has no concerns about his right elbow.

How he looks on the mound in the Frontier League and how his medicals are viewed will determine where he winds up in the 2022 draft, but he said that isn’t the immediate concern.

“I’m not here to show [major league teams] anything but just pitch,” the 22-year-old from Georgia said Saturday over Zoom. “Just go out there and do what I love to do.”

According to Boras, there “were no concerns” about Rocker’s arm last year and none this year.

In the months since the Mets walked away without a contract offer on Aug. 1, Team Rocker says he has consistently been cleared and gotten stronger.

“We have the most prominent orthopedic surgeons in the nation who have told us repeatedly that Kumar is healthy and available,” Boras said. “Obviously through a year of conditioning and strength-building on the part of Kumar, he is in a much different physical state than he was a year ago because he’s had the opportunity … to do a major league routine and focus on conditioning for a full year.”

Rocker is taking a similar route to former Yankee James Paxton, who did not sign and played independent ball, in which he was managed by Pete Incaviglia — who is now the ValleyCats manager.

Vanderbilt pitcher Kumar Rocker (80) throws during the first inning in Game 3 of the NCAA College World Series baseball finals in Omaha, Neb.
Kumar Rocker

In the past year, Rocker has sought the advice of former Royal Luke Hochevar, who was drafted by the Dodgers, did not sign, pitched in an independent league and then became the No. 1 pick in 2006.

“I’ve actually spent a lot of time with Hoch, growing my faith, he’s actually a pastor,” Rocker said. “So I’ve heard a lot from him. He’s a great mentor, and he took me in and kind of showed me the ropes.”

Rocker had been dominant at Vanderbilt, where he was a unanimous first-team All-American and the second player since 1998 to lead the country in both strikeouts and wins. But his velocity dropped as the season wore on, which raised questions, as did Mets team doctors.

Scouts will be swarming ValleyCats games, and Boras said Rocker can prove he will be “one of the elite people in this draft.”

For a final time.

“This is going to be my third draft,” Rocker said, “so [I’m] a salty vet at it.”

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