With the Nationals experiencing an inordinate amount of injuries this season, a revolving door of opportunity has opened up for players in their minor league system. Through 62 games in 2013, they have already produced five major league debuts and needed eleven total call-ups.
Specifically with pitching, the Nationals have already needed more reinforcements for their starting rotation than they did all of last season. They have called on veteran Zach Duke out of the bullpen, rookie Nathan Karns from Harrisburg, and are expected to bring up Ross Ohlendorf from Triple-A for Wednesday in Colorado.
Still waiting for his own call-up is Syracuse lefty Danny Rosenbaum, who is as close to realizing his MLB dream as he’s ever been. In his fifth year as part of the Nationals’ minor league system, Rosenbaum is 5-3 with a 3.44 ERA for the Chiefs this season. He has succeeded at each of the Nats’ affiliates with a career 2.91 ERA in the minors.
Knowing it could happen any day now, Rosenbaum is trying to focus on the task at hand and taking care of business at Syracuse. He said it can be distracting to think about it too much and believes it affected his performance last year.
“It’s really good to see all these guys get called up,” he said. “But it’s something that I can’t really stress about or worry about. I think that’s what I did last year and that’s when I started getting in trouble. I was thinking about all the wrong things. I need to stay focused on what we’re doing and just keep pitching.”
‘Getting in trouble’ as Rosenbaum described it, shows the standard he sets for himself. 2012 was his worst year as a professional, but his ERA was still just 3.94. Compared to his 2.52 mark in 2011 and 2.25 in 2010, and sure, it was worse.
“Last year I started out good and the second half of the season was absolutely terrible, but I learned a lot from myself,” he said.
“I took a lot from that experience because that was the first time that I really struggled in pro ball. I had to learn how to get past adversity. I didn’t deal with it very well. It’s happened to me this year and I think I’ve handled myself pretty well with it.”
Rosenbaum has enjoyed pitching at the Triple-A level as he is one step away from the majors, but also because of the resources at hand. Veterans Chris Young, Micah Owings, and Ohlendorf have a combined 21 years of MLB experience and are always available to ask advice.
“I enjoy being around a lot of these older guys who have been around the game for a while,” Rosenbaum said. “I’ve learned a lot from them, just talking with them, how to pitch to certain types of hitters and in certain counts. Just getting their perspective on it.”
“We talk about how to pitch certain guys, how to read swings during an at-bat which I had never really done before. They’ve really helped me a lot, especially with the mental part and strategy wise. I really enjoy being around those guys.”
Rosenbaum spent the spring as a member of the Rockies after being claimed in December as part of the Rule 5 Draft. He came close to making the big league club in Colorado, but was returned to the Nats in March.
After letting him go, the Rockies then tried to trade for Rosenbaum to put him back in their minor league system. Nats general manager Mike Rizzo declined the offer and instead welcomed the lefty back as a member of the organization.
“It was definitely disappointing that I didn’t get to make the team. I thought I had a really good spring. But the day that they cut me, the Nationals called me and told me there is a really good opportunity here for me and that they were glad to have me back,” Rosenbaum said.
“I know the Rockies tried to trade for me, but Mike Rizzo said no. That’s a good thing in my eyes, it means they want me back.”
Rosenbaum was reunited with the Nationals, where he feels comfortable. At 25 years old, he has grown a lot in the last five years as part of the organization, along with many of his teammates.
One fellow Nats player in particular, Jeff Kobernus, has followed a similar track to Rosenbaum. The two were both drafted in 2009 and have been teammates at the same minor league levels each of the last four seasons.
Kobernus was called up in late May to make his debut and Rosenbaum was there to experience it. Seeing his friend finally get the call was a special moment he says.
“It’s really cool to be around because you see guys, as soon as they’re told they are in shock. I saw Kobernus, he was told when were in Columbus. Just seeing the expression on his face, it was just priceless. He looked like a little kid on Christmas morning,” he said.
Kobernus getting promoted hit close to home for Rosenbaum who has been around him for half a decade now. It gives him encouragement that maybe he will be next.
“It’s really cool to see those guys, I’m really glad I get to be there with them,” he said. “Just seeing him finally getting his opportunity, which he definitely deserved, it’s a great feeling because I see that it could happen to me soon, too. Seeing all these guys getting moved up and down, you know that you are right there. You’re pretty close.”
Rosenbaum is certainly knocking on the door, but there is no guarantee when his day will come. With the way the Nats have been going with injuries this year though, it could be sooner than he thinks.