DENVER -- Rockies reliever Josh Roenicke has gone from a pitcher so stressed about trying to stay in the Majors that he tried to be perfect, to one who seems to relish the times opponents hit off him.
Roenicke (1-0, 2.22 ERA) has become dependable because of his ability to overcome traffic on the bases. In 23 appearances, the right-hander sports a 1.33 WHIP, which means he deals with his fair share of runners on base. But he also has forced seven double-play grounders and has held opponents to a .125 batting average with two outs.
The production has earned him increased work, sometimes in key situations. It's gratifying for Roenicke, who bounced between Triple-A and the Majors over the last four seasons with the Reds, Blue Jays and Rockies. This season marks his first time on an Opening Day roster, and he appears to be finding his footing, thanks to the confidence he has in his two-seam sinking fastball.
"I started throwing a sinker two years ago, and that's really helped me," Roenicke said. "This spring I had a lot of people get on base, but I got a lot of double plays with it, and that helped my confidence."
The 29-year-old could make it a little easier on himself by trimming walks -- he entered Friday with 17, against 20 strikeouts. But his ability to erase baserunners with one pitch is not lost on manager Jim Tracy.
"He's been a unique surprise for us, in that Josh has been doing some similar things to what [primary righty setup man Matt] Belisle had been doing the last couple of years," Tracy said. "You can use Josh to fill innings.
"There's the tendency every once in a while to walk a guy, but then he'll throw a ground ball and there's two outs."
Roenicke has the uncommon trait that his best pitch works better at Coors Field than on the road. He has had issues with controlling the movement of the sinker on the road. He has nine walks in 11 2/3 innings on the road, against eight walks in 17 2/3 innings at home.
"In the thick air, like Miami [when he walked two of the three batters he faced but didn't give up a run on May 22], it dances too much," Roenicke said. "I fell in love with it, it went in and out of the zone and I walked a couple of guys. Lately I've been throwing a lot of four-seamers, but when guys get on base I'll throw sinkers, guy pull off it a little bit and they hit it to guys so the double play can happen."