Arm twist for farmhand
Ex-QB Roenicke now a Bats P
BY C.L. BROWN | THE (LOUISVILLE) COURIER-JOURNAL
Louisville Bats reliever Josh Roenicke always had visions of delivering clutch, game-winning throws from his fingertips - just not in the same way the rest of his family figured.
Despite growing up with a baseball background, Roenicke thought he would be tossing touchdown passes, not fastballs.
"In high school, football and basketball were my two favorite sports," Roenicke said. "With baseball, the games were fun, but practice every day kind of got old compared to football and basketball. There was a lot more excitement in those two sports."
Roenicke, 25, was a 1-year-old when his father, Gary, won a World Series ring as an outfielder with the 1983 Baltimore Orioles. His dad spent 12 seasons in the major leagues and now is an Orioles scout.
Roenicke's uncle, Ron, also was an outfielder, and he played eight seasons in the majors. He now is the bench coach for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Roenicke's older brother, Jarett, spent time in the minor leagues as an outfielder. His younger brother, Jason, was picked in the 19th round of this month's Major League Baseball draft by the Toronto Blue Jays as a pitcher.
That's why it was hard for Roenicke to totally turn his back on baseball.
Now, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Roenicke is emerging as one of the most promising relief pitchers in the Reds' organization. He has a 1.80 ERA and two saves in eight appearances, spanning 10 innings, for the Bats after moving up from Double-A Chattanooga.
"Baseball is in my bloodline," Roenicke said. "I knew once I got to college, if football didn't work out, I was going to see where it would take me."
Roenicke signed to play football at UCLA, but he also took to the diamond as an outfielder for the same coach as his uncle. Former Bruins coach Gary Adams gave Roenicke a taste of pitching, allowing him to take the mound in blowout games to toss a few innings.
When Adams was replaced by John Savage as UCLA's coach, Roenicke had to prove himself on the mound during fall practice. But he eventually would have a role as a Bruins middle reliever his senior year.
Things didn't fall into place so well on the gridiron. After redshirting his freshman season at quarterback, Roenicke found himself buried on the depth chart behind two hotshot recruits: Ben Olson and Matt Moore.
"The team thought it would be in my best interest to move me to receiver, and I'd never played that before," Roenicke said. "After that, a new staff came in and I went back to the scout team, so I just hung it up after that because I knew it wasn't going anywhere."
What was bad for his UCLA career turned out to be a blessing for the Reds' organization.
"He's got a terrific arm," Bats pitching coach Ted Power said of Roenicke. "He's always trying to improve what he's got; he just needs more seasoning."
Roenicke, who throws a 96 mph fastball, breezed through stints with Single-A Sarasota and Double-A Chattanooga in his first full season in the minors last year. He finished a combined 3-2 with 24 saves and a 2.33 ERA.
Power said players who come from baseball families like Roenicke's tend to have an edge.
"They have a lot of composure that sometimes takes years to learn," Power said. "They seem to have it from the get-go. He always seems to be very composed and under control when he's playing."
So when Roenicke was walking too many batters as he started this season with Chattanooga, it didn't lead to a tailspin. After allowing 12 walks in 22 innings with the Lookouts this year, he has allowed two with Louisville.
In 10 innings with the Bats, Roenicke has allowed just two earned runs and struck out 11 batters.
Roenicke said he still feels new to pitching. But he said it helps him to talk to those who have been on the baseball field before him.
"I talk to my dad just about every time I throw," Roenicke said. "And my uncle, I'll talk to him and he'll relay stuff to me. It helps having them to lean on because of their experience. I probably won't see anything that they haven't seen before."