Speaking with B.J. Rosenberg this past week, it was almost prophetic that he said he has started to realize just how close to the majors he may be at this point in his career. Having started the season at Double-A Reading, Rosenberg didn't spend a lot of time wondering about when he would get the call to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. When that call came in late April, he was ready for the challenge and where he was suddenly sank in when he saw former teammate Jake Diekman record his first major league win.
"I get really excited seeing guys like him [Diekman] and guys I've played with for a while and guys who are my good friends do well up there," said Rosenberg. "Naturally, you'd like to think you can make it up there eventually and it's exciting to think about that day, but I try to just stay in the moment and concentrate on where I'm at right now."
It will be interesting to see how Rosenberg handles being a major leaguer, because he was one of the few that didn't think the jump from High-A ball to Double-A was the toughest move. Instead, he found that pitching at Triple-A was tougher because of the number of good hitters that you have to face. Now, he'll be facing those hitters non-stop pitching at the major league level. "At Double-A, there are guys who can hit for power and are good hitters, but up here [at Triple-A], you have guys who have played in the majors and have sort of seen it all before, so you have to make every pitch count."
Judging by the stats, Rosenberg didn't have too much of an adjustment to make at Lehigh Valley, since he posted a 1.74 ERA in 11 games and struck out 26 hitters in 20 2/3 innings of work. Technically, Rosenberg's line at Lehigh Valley shows a blown save, but it was one of those glitches in the rule where he came on in the seventh inning and pitched 1 2/3 innings, allowing just one unearned run and was charged with a blown save; don't get me started on that rule. On the upside, he did record his first Triple-A win in that game.
It's likely that one of the people who were impressed by Rosenberg was former Phillie Dave Hollins, who is now a scout for the organization. Hollins was in Lehigh Valley this past week and saw Rosenberg pitch against Gwinnett. Ironically, Rosenberg allowed an earned run in two innings of work, but after the game, IronPigs' manager Ryne Sandberg said Rosenberg pitched well. "I thought he threw well, he left the ball up on [Ernesto] Mejia and he didn't miss it, but overall, he pitched well again. He's done a good job for us," explained Sandberg.
After saving five games for Williamsport in his first professional season, Rosenberg seemed to be on the fast track. By August of the next year, Rosenberg was in Reading and compiled a string of 33 scoreless innings between Lakewood and Reading, while converting 22 of 26 save opportunities. He was back at Reading last season and suffered a number of injuries that seemed to halt his movement through the system. He also made 14 starts for the R-Phils as the Phillies toyed with the idea of converting him into a starter. Between the injuries and a sub-par (4-4, 5.62) performance as a starter, Rosenberg was again back in a familiar role as a closer and converted both save opportunities that he was presented with.
"I think with a little more work, I might have been able to make the change to starting, but I've really become very comfortable in the bullpen," admitted Rosenberg. "I like to close, but I also like to go out and pitch a couple of innings, because if you make a mistake, you have time to correct it and turn around the outing so it doesn't seem as bad."
With the Phillies, Rosenberg will be presented with some huge opportunities, but closing isn't likely to be one of them. Jonathan Papelbon has converted all 16 of his save opportunities, but the Phillies have struggled to get to Papelbon in the late innings. Chad Qualls (5.32 ERA) hasn't pitched well and the same can be said for young Michael Schwimer (7.56 ERA), and the line of injured relievers is a long one, with Jose Contreras, David Herndon, Michael Stutes and Justin De Fratus all on the DL, right-handers just aren't a commodity that is readily available in the Phillies bullpen. As with most young relievers, manager Charlie Manuel will likely try to work Rosenberg into some low-pressure, low-risk situations before throwing him more into the fire as a major league reliever.
The opportunity is definitely there for Rosenberg though; with Schwimer struggling, even if the Phillies do acquire relief help from another organization, Rosenberg could stick with the club while it would be Schwimer who would be heading back to Lehigh Valley, if Rosenberg steps up to the challenge.
B.J. Rosenberg's career stats