Josh Roenicke (Trading Card DB)

Josh Roenicke

This article was written by Michael Trzinski

Josh Roenicke (Trading Card DB)With the last name of Roenicke, you’d think he’d be a “baseball first” kind of guy. Righty pitcher Josh Roenicke’s father, Gary Roenicke, was a major-league outfielder, as was his uncle, Ron Roenicke.

So, it seems strange that Josh was a “recruited walk-on”1 at UCLA as a quarterback but walked on to the baseball team as an afterthought. “When I was in high school, [I thought] football was my future. I was a great football player and only a good baseball player,” said Roenicke.2 “My third year in football, I got sent back to the scout team. I realized football was going nowhere for me and was becoming a waste of time. After that football season, I made the decision to commit to baseball full-time.”3

He wound up having a 15-year pro career on the mound, including six seasons in the majors (2008-13) for four different teams, one season in Mexico (2017), and three in Taiwan (2018-20).

* * *

Joshua James Roenicke (pronounced REN-i-key) was born on August 4, 1982, in Baltimore, Maryland. His parents were Gary and Debra Roenicke. Gary was then the righty half of the Orioles’ platoon in left field with John Lowenstein. He played major-league baseball for 12 years (1976; 1978-88) and was instrumental in helping the Baltimore Orioles win the 1983 World Series.

Uncle Ron Roenicke didn’t have as notable a big-league playing career, with six teams in eight years (1981-88). However, he spent four full years and parts of two others as a big-league skipper with the Milwaukee Brewers and Boston Red Sox. He also served 18 years as a major-league coach; as of 2024 he was a special assistant to the general manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Roenicke baseball heritage began with Josh’s grandfather, Floyd, who was a speedy outfielder in the late 1940s and early 1950s for Mt. San Antonio College (Walnut, California) and Whittier College, where former President Richard Nixon matriculated. Floyd went on to coach baseball and teach at Covina (California) High School for more than 30 years.

Debra was a stay-at-home mom to Josh and older brother Jarett. A third son, Jason, was born in 1985.

Josh started playing baseball at age five, and three years later had added basketball and soccer. “Our dad encouraged me and my brothers to play multiple sports for as long as we could,” said Roenicke.4 The other two Roenicke boys were also good enough at baseball to be drafted. Jarett played two years in the Padres organization and one year in the independent Central League, while Jason played two seasons in the Blue Jay chain and three years in independent ball. Cousin Lance was also drafted and played for two years in the Brewers organization.

At Nevada Union High School in Grass Valley, California, Roenicke played football, baseball, and basketball all four years. He earned All-Capital Athletic League (CAL) first team honors in football as a junior; as a senior he was league co-MVP. Roenicke was also a first team All-CAL shortstop as a junior.

He was recruited mostly by Division II football programs but chose UCLA as a recruited walk-on. Roenicke said, “I could have taken a scholarship at a smaller school but chose to walk on at UCLA, which I sometimes regret.”5

Roenicke redshirted his freshman year. He then switched from quarterback to wide receiver as a sophomore and made the travel roster for every game. He was demoted to the scout team his junior year but finished the season. At that point, Roenicke dropped football to concentrate on baseball.

The 6-foot-3, 200-pound right-hander was mostly a defensive replacement in the outfield his freshman and sophomore years, pitching in three games his freshman year and none his sophomore season. His junior year, Roenicke started 35 games in the outfield and was third on the team in batting (.277).  In his final season as a redshirt senior, Roenicke started 42 games in center field, batting just .248 with one home run, and made 16 appearances as a relief pitcher, averaging a strikeout an inning and picking up three saves.6

If Roenicke was going to continue his baseball career, it was going to be as a pitcher, not as an outfielder. Among the scouts taking notice was Cincinnati’s Rex De La Nuez. “I think it just stood out to them, seeing me run in from center field and pitch in the middle of an inning, sitting lows 90s and touching 95,” Roenicke said. “They figured with my full focus on pitching, I could have some success at the pro level.”

The day of the MLB draft in June 2006, Roenicke and several teammates gathered off-campus to watch the draft online. “My teammates went to the store to get some beer and while they were gone my name was called,” remembered Roenicke, who was the Cincinnati Reds’ 10th round pick. “Once they all got back and I told them I was drafted, we all jumped up and down and celebrated together.”

Roenicke started his pro career in Sarasota, Florida in the rookie Gulf Coast League. After about a month of hot and humid day games, he was moved up to Billings (Montana) of the rookie Pioneer League. Roenicke had a decent first year overall, winning two games, saving six, and compiling an ERA of 4.63 across 23 1/3 innings. That fall, Roenicke and several Billings teammates participated in the Florida Instructional League. “I was throwing my fastball in the mid-90s consistently and that put me on the radar for Reds minor leaguers,” said Roenicke. “That was my first full season as strictly a pitcher. I think that played a major part (in my success).”7

“I also met my [future] wife in 2006,” he added, “So I’d say this was a pretty important time for both my career and my personal life.”8 Nikki Desmond Roenicke is the sister of Ian Desmond, who was then a Washington Nationals prospect. Josh and Nikki got married in 2010.9 They went on to have three daughters and a son.

In 2007, Roenicke began the season at High-A Sarasota in the Florida State League. He played in the FSL All-Star game and after he had saved 16 games in his first 27 appearances, he got a well-deserved promotion to Double-A Chattanooga in the Southern League. Roenicke was even better in Tennessee, posting an ERA of 0.95, a WHIP of 0.947 and eight saves in 19 games.

Roenicke started the 2008 campaign in Chattanooga and once again pitched well, saving 10 games with a 3.27 ERA in 22 appearances. In early June, he was promoted to Triple-A Louisville in the International League. It didn’t take him long to impress at the new level. “He’s got a terrific arm,” said Louisville pitching coach Ted Power. “He’s always trying to improve what he’s got; he just needs more seasoning.”10

Although Roenicke was not the closer at Louisville, he was in the late inning mix, saving three games and sporting a 2.54 ERA over 39 innings and 35 appearances. After Louisville lost in a best-of-five semifinal playoff series to Durham, Roenicke was promoted to Cincinnati in early September.

On September 13, Roenicke made his major-league debut against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field in Phoenix. Among the crowd of 45,075 were Roenicke’s parents, grandmother, both brothers, and a few best friends from back home in California.11 He entered the 1-1 game in the bottom of the seventh with runners on second and third with two outs. Roenicke walked Chris Young on four pitches to load the bases. Adam Dunn came to the plate and on a 1-0 count, Roenicke beaned the former Reds slugger to score Justin Upton, giving the D-Backs a 2-1 lead. Roenicke recovered and struck out Mark Reynolds swinging to end the inning. That would be it for Roenicke, but the Reds went on to win the game, 3-2 in 10 innings. After the game, Roenicke told reporters, “Yeah, the blood was flowing. I tried not to let the surroundings get to me. I wanted to attack the strike zone, but nerves caused me to yank a couple of breaking balls.”12

Roenicke pitched three times between September 18 and 25 with limited success. In 1 2/3 innings in that span, he allowed six hits, three earned runs, and one walk while striking out two. In the final game of the year for the Reds, on September 28, Roenicke showed the organization what he could do. He entered the game in the bottom of the fourth inning in St. Louis against the Cardinals, trailing 11-3. He struck out Jason LaRue, Brian Barton, and Brad Thompson on 13 pitches. His final numbers showed five appearances, three innings, six hits, and an ERA of 9.00.

The Reds’ final spring training (2009) in Sarasota included Roenicke. Cincinnati would move their spring operations to Goodyear, Arizona, the following year. Roenicke had a scoreless streak of five innings in mid-March but was one of the last cuts; he was reassigned to Louisville at the end of the month.13

Roenicke was among International League save leaders with 11 when he got called up to Cincinnati on June 17. He continued the trend of good pitching for the Reds, posting an ERA of 0.93 across nine-plus innings until just before the All-Star break. Roenicke was sent down after the break but returned to the big club a couple of weeks later. He pitched his last game for Cincinnati on July 29.

On July 31, the Reds traded Roenicke, Edwin Encarnación, and prospect Zach Stewart to Toronto for Scott Rolen and cash considerations.14 Roenicke finished the season with Toronto. His overall numbers showed a 2.70 ERA in 11 games for the Reds, while he struggled with the Blue Jays: 7.13 ERA in 13 contests. In his defense, he was sidelined with a sore elbow for several weeks in late August/early September. Roenicke really scuffled the final three weeks, pitching to an inflated ERA of 11.82 in his last four outings.

In 2010, Roenicke once again started the year in Triple-A, this time with Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League (PCL). His demotion was mostly because he had minor-league options remaining. Merkin Valdez—who had been purchased from San Francisco two months earlier—had no options left. Valdez lasted only three weeks on the Blue Jays roster before getting sent down to Las Vegas, where he would finish the year. Ironically, it was Roenicke who was called up to replace Valdez in late April, along with Rommie Lewis. The highlight of Roenicke’s 2010 season in Toronto was his first big-league win on May 14 in a 16-10 slugfest over Texas.

On June 1, the Toronto-Las Vegas shuttle once again had Roenicke as a passenger, this time moving the pitcher back to Triple-A. Lack of control might have been the deciding factor: Roenicke walked 11 batters in 12 2/3 innings over nine appearances for the Blue Jays.

Roenicke earned a September call-up and struggled in seven appearances with a 7.11 ERA, giving up five earned runs in six-plus innings.

In 2011, Roenicke was assigned to the Blue Jays’ minor-league camp in mid-March, whereas in previous seasons he was one of the final cutdowns. Was this the beginning of the end for him with Toronto? He started out poorly in Las Vegas; in late May he was put on waivers. However, he was soon picked up by Colorado. Roenicke reported to Triple-A Colorado Springs and did well in the city with an elevation 800 feet higher than Denver’s, posting an ERA of 3.52 and giving up only three home runs in 30-plus innings.

In early August, Roenicke was called up to Colorado. He had a streak of eight and one-third scoreless innings when he was sent down to Triple-A, as the Rockies had several players coming off the disabled list. “I wasn’t happy because I was in a groove and was dominating,” recalled Roenicke. “But I had one option left and Huston Street was coming off the DL.”15

The big right-hander got called back up on August 30 because a Colorado pitcher went on paternity leave (it was Jason Hammel).16 Roenicke finished up the year in the majors, and though he got roughed up a couple of times late in the year, he still finished the season with an ERA of 3.78 in 19 outings.

The 2012 season was a bittersweet one for Roenicke. He stayed with Colorado all year, pitching in 63 games, posting an ERA of 3.25 and a won-lost record of 4-2. His 88 2/3 innings pitched led all major-league relief pitchers. “I had my good sinker going, which was great pitching at elevation,” recalled Roenicke. “I pounded it inside to righties all season and had a good number of double plays, which was huge because I allowed way too many free passes.”17 His 12 double plays led all Colorado pitchers.

There were some other notable moments for Roenicke that season. In July, he notched his only big-league hit, off Arizona’s Joe Saunders. Previously, in late June, he’d given up a triple and homer to brother-in-law Desmond in the first two plate appearances they had against each other. “We’ll argue about it,” Roenicke said, “but I like to say I’m the better athlete.”18

He also picked up the first of his two big-league saves on October 1, getting the last two outs in the 13th inning at Arizona. Yet after the season, the Rockies put him on waivers. He was claimed by the Minnesota Twins in early November. Why was he released? “That is the million-dollar question, and I was never given a straight answer,” said Roenicke with a laugh. “I had a 2.66 ERA after 80 innings and then a few terrible outings in September killed me.”19 He gave up eight earned runs in his final nine games, which raised his ERA to 3.25. The save was also a rocky affair. Entering with one out and a four-run lead, he put the tying runs on base and allowed two inherited runners to score before escaping.

In 2013, Roenicke once again appeared in 63 games, fourth most in the Twins bullpen. In 62 innings, his ERA was 4.35; and he had one save. That offseason, the Twins placed Roenicke on outright waivers, but the pitcher rejected the assignment and opted for free agency. On Valentine’s Day 2014, the Washington Nationals signed Roenicke to a minor-league contract. Desmond was instrumental in getting Roenicke a contract with the organization. “He texted [Nationals general manager Mike] Rizzo because I hadn’t signed with anyone yet,” Roenicke said, “and Rizzo said, ‘I’ll sign him right now.’”20

Roenicke started out in Syracuse of the Triple-A International League and for the first time as a professional, he started games—15 of them, in fact. He won four games but posted an ERA of 5.45 and a WHIP of 1.714. In early August, he was released by the Nationals and picked up by the Rockies a week later in a minor-league deal. Roenicke struggled with Colorado Springs, pitching in six games with an ERA of 10.45 in 10-plus innings. He was granted free agency in November.

Just before spring training 2015, the Milwaukee Brewers signed Roenicke to a minor-league contract. He began the season on the disabled list with a pulled muscle in his lower back. Roenicke once again returned to Colorado Springs, which had become a Brewers affiliate. He had a tough year, posting a 6.15 ERA and a WHIP of 1.724 in 23 starts and a pair of relief appearances. Once again, he was released after the season.

The Los Angeles Angels signed Roenicke during spring training 2016 and started him at Inland Empire (San Bernardino) in the High-A California League. He pitched well and earned a promotion to Double-A Arkansas (Texas League) in mid-June; he moved up again in early August to Salt Lake in the PCL. Roenicke posted an ERA of 2.48 in 27 appearances at the two lower levels before moving up to Triple-A. He was placed on the disabled list in late August with an ankle contusion and pitched in only four contests for Salt Lake. In what had become a recurring theme, Roenicke was granted free agency after that season.

It appeared that Roenicke’s career was over, as he wasn’t getting any calls from major league teams. He got his life insurance license and was beginning that career when he got a call from the Puebla team in the Mexican League. “That was actually a very fun season,” said Roenicke. “You get to go all over the country and see other cities that you normally don’t see as tourists.”21 He led the team with seven wins, 120 innings pitched, and a 2.70 ERA.

Roenicke had planned to go back to Mexico in 2018 but got a call from a team in Taiwan’s Chinese Professional Baseball League. “My wife and I decided it would be a cool opportunity,” remembered Roenicke.22 He pitched three years for the Uni-President team in Tainan City. He led the CPBL in wins (12), ERA (3.17), and innings pitched (156) in 2018, and then won five games in each of the next two seasons.

Roenicke tore his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) during the 2020 season and knew his career was over. “I was 38, married with four kids and across the world from them,” he recalled. “It was an easy choice.”23

As of 2024, Roenicke worked in real estate in Florida. He and his family resided in Lakewood Ranch, Florida, where Nikki owned an exercise studio.

Last revised: May 1, 2024



Special thanks to Josh Roenicke for his input via emails and text messages, 2024.

This biography was reviewed by Rory Costello and David Bilmes and checked for accuracy by members of SABR’s fact-checking team.



In addition to the sources credited in the Notes, the author consulted and for background information on players, teams, and seasons.

Photo credit: Josh Roenicke, Trading Card Database.



1 Though this term may strike some as a contradiction in terms, its meaning in college sports is distinct. It refers to athletes who attract interest from a head coach, but not at a level high enough to get a scholarship. They must go through tryouts.

2 Josh Roenicke, text message with author, February 16, 2024.

3 Roenicke text message, February 16, 2024.

4 Roenicke text message, February 16, 2024.

5 Josh Roenicke, email correspondence, February 16, 2024.

6 ”Player bio: Josh Roenicke – UCLA Official Athletic Site.”, April 17, 2013. (last accessed April 21, 2024.

7 Roenicke text message, February 16, 2024.

8 Roenicke email correspondence, February 16, 2024.

9 Nikki Roenicke’s Instagram page.

10 C.L. Brown, “Arm Twist for Reds Prospect,” Cincinnati Enquirer, June 19, 2008: B1.

11 Roenicke text message, February 24, 2024.

12 Hal McCoy, “Davis looks for change in team’s mentality,” Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio), September 15, 2008: B2.

13 “Reds trade Keppinger to Astros,” Times Recorder (Zanesville, Ohio), April 1, 2009: 2B.

14 Richard Griffin, “Rolen rolls out, Doc sticks around,” Toronto Star, August 1, 2009: S1.

15 Roenicke text message, February 19, 2024.

16 Roenicke text message, February 19, 2024. See also Troy E. Renck, “Hammel waits for newborn,” Denver Post, August 30, 2011.

17 Roenicke text message, February 20, 2024.

18 C. Trent Rosecrans, “Nats’ Ian Desmond takes brother-in-law deep,”, June 28, 2012. There was one more at-bat with this matchup, and Roenicke got Desmond to ground out.

19 Roenicke text message, February 20, 2024.

20 Roenicke text message, February 20, 2024

21 Roenicke text message, February 20, 2024.

22 Roenicke text message, February 20, 2024.

23 Roenicke text message, February 20, 2024.

Full Name

Joshua James Roenicke


August 4, 1982 at Baltimore, MD (USA)

If you can help us improve this player’s biography, contact us.