Feb 16, 2014, 9:58 AM EDT
VIERA, Fla. — Josh Roenicke first met Ian Desmond in 2008, after the former had begun seriously dating the latter’s sister, Nikki. Roenicke was a minor-league reliever with the Reds. Desmond was still toiling in the Nationals’ farm system.
Little could either know they’d not only find themselves in the majors six years later, but in the same clubhouse wearing the same uniform.
“It’s cool,” Roenicke said. “Our wives are probably more excited than we are.”
Signed by the Nationals to a minor-league contract with an invitation to big-league camp, Roenicke reported to Viera yesterday and took the field with his new teammates. One of those, of course, is Desmond, who just so happens to sit across the table from him at Thanksgiving dinner.
Roenicke met Nikki Desmond while he was coming up with the Reds, who used to train in Sarasota, Fla. That’s where the Desmonds grew up and still live.
Now the two families live a mile from each other, their toddlers getting together for regular playdates.
“We see them all the time,” Roenicke said.
They could get a chance to see each other a whole lot more this summer if Roenicke makes the Nationals’ bullpen. His odds of heading north with the club out of spring training are slim, with a host of capable arms battling for the one or perhaps two jobs up for grabs. But the Nats wouldn’t hesitate to summon Roenicke if he pitches well at Class AAA Syracuse along the way.
To do that, the right-hander will need to find what worked for him in 2012 with the Rockies, when he posted a 3.25 ERA in 63 games. Claimed off waivers by the Twins last winter, he struggled with command (issuing 36 walks in 62 innings) and wound up with an inflated 4.35 ERA.
The difference? Roenicke believes he needs to rely more on his sinker, the pitch that made him effective in Colorado.
“I got a lot of contact and a lot of double plays, which negated those walks,” he said. “Last year, I kind of got away from my sinker. I’d like to get it back.”
First up, Roenicke would like to get a crack at facing his brother-in-law in spring training live batting practice. The two have met three times, all in 2012, and Desmond clearly got the better of him, going 2-for-3 with a homer and a triple.
Roenicke has spent the last two years hearing all about it over family dinners.
“It’s competitive,” he said. “We talk a lot of trash, mess around. He has my number right now. So, like he said: ‘Can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, I guess.’ But we’re pretty close. Brotherly love and friendly. No harm or anything serious.”
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