The Nationals continued their efforts to add bullpen depth by signing right-handed reliever Josh Roenicke, who happens to be shortstop Ian Desmond’s brother-in-law, to a minor league deal accompanied by an invitation to big league camp. Roenicke, 31, has pitched parts of six seasons in the majors and posted a 4.35 ERA over 62 innings for the Minnesota Twins last season.
Roenicke, selected by Cincinnati in the 10th round of the 2006 draft out of UCLA, has pitched for the Blue Jays, Reds, Rockies and Twins. He had high strikeout rates early in his career but struggle with command. Last season with Minnesota he had a 6.5 K/9 rate but also a 5.2 BB/9 rate. He has a career 4.17 ERA over 220 1/3 major league innings with a 6.9 K/9 and 4.8 BB/9 rate. Roenicke was outrighted to Class AAA last October but later elected free agency.
Roenicke enters a crowded bullpen competition. With right-handed reliever Erik Davis landing on the 60-day disabled list on Thursday with an elbow strain, Roenicke can likely be viewed as bullpen depth for now. Roenicke, along with Luis Ayala, Christian Garcia, Ryan Mattheus, Sammy Solis, Ross Ohlendorf, Manny Delcarmen and Gabriel Alfaro, are all competing for the final bullpen spots. Tanner Roark is competing for the fifth starter’s spot, but could wind up in the bullpen in some scenarios.
Roenicke is married to Desmond’s sister, Nikki. Desmond owns the upper hand on his brother-in-law on the field: He is 2 for 3 with a triple and home run against Roenicke. After the signing was announced, Desmond tweeted at Roenicke.