Minor League Report: Josh Roenicke

Roenicke relishes Major opportunity

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Reliever Josh Roenicke has heard all of the cracks about his hometown. It's hard not to notice when a guy hails from Ruff & Ready, Calif.

"Everyone brings that up -- it's a strange name," Roenicke said of the small town located midway between Sacramento, Calif., and Reno, Nev.

"I hope he lives up to the name of his town," Reds manager Dusty Baker said.

Not only will Roenicke be asked often about where he resides, but his father and uncle are likely to come up in conversation. His father is Ron Roenicke, a former Major League outfielder and now the Angels' bench coach. His uncle, Gary Roenicke, was also an outfielder, spending most of his career with the Orioles.

After watching Roenicke unleash one of his 98-mph fastballs, where he comes from and who he's related to take a backseat. A 10th-round pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, the 25-year-old is already experiencing his first big league camp as a non-roster invite. He's believed to be the hardest thrower in camp.

Last season at Class A Sarasota and Double-A Chattanooga, Roenicke posted a combined 2.31 ERA with 24 saves. With Chattanooga, he had a 0.95 ERA in 19 games and didn't allow a run in 16 of his appearances.

"I hunted with his dad this winter," Baker said. "We talked about his son, his background and where he came from. I've been following him since he was in high school, as a football player."

Roenicke was a two-sport athlete at UCLA. In football, he was a quarterback for his freshman season before converting to wide receiver the next two years. After the third year, he concentrated solely on baseball. Mostly an outfielder, he was also the Bruins' closer.

"It was kind of like high school, I'd walk in from center field some games," Roenicke said. "In the eighth inning, I'd run out real quick, jump over the fence and throw a few off the mound. A few times, since our bullpen was near left field, the catcher would come out and throw from there."

The Reds selected Roenicke to be a full-time reliever. He was already rated the organization's ninth-best prospect by Baseball America. But what did the right-hander expect from his first camp among Major Leaguers?

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"I think I'm more here for the experience," Roenicke said. "My dad told me to make the job hard for them to send me down. I'm happy to be here and it should be fun."

Another report date soon: All is mostly quiet inside the spartan Minor League clubhouse that's adjacent to the big league clubhouse. Minor League pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report on Feb. 29.

Until then, several of the Reds' Minor League managers and coaches are working on the big league side -- including Triple-A Louisville manager Rick Sweet, and Bats pitching coach Ted Power.

Familiar faces: Former Reds ace Mario Soto is back in camp again working with Major and Minor League pitchers. Former second baseman Bill Doran has returned to the organization and has started his first season has the infield/baserunning coordinator.

Other former Reds expected later in camp as camp instructors are Todd Benzinger, Jack Billingham, Eric Davis, Doug Flynn, George Foster, Cesar Geronimo, Ken Griffey Sr., Jim Maloney and Lee May.

They're No. 1: This will be the first Spring Training for 2007 first-round Draft pick Devin Mesoraco, a catcher. The 15th overall selection, Mesoraco batted .219 in 40 games for the Gulf Coast League Reds.

Class of '07: The Reds' supplemental first-round Draft pick last year out of Rutgers University, shortstop Todd Frazier, batted a combined .319 with seven homers and 30 RBIs at rookie-level Billings and Class A Dayton. Baseball America rated the 22-year-old Frazier as the organization's seventh-best prospect.

What they're saying: "He's got that baseball bloodline. That helps." -- Soto, who's been impressed watching Roenicke throw during his bullpen sessions

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.