Southpaw could be next York/Adams major leaguer
During the winter, southpaw Triple A pitcher Robert Rohrbaugh trains in Littlestown. Here, he lifts weights at the Littlestown YMCA. ‘He’s knocking on the door of the big leagues,’ said Greg Hunter, the Mariners’ director of player personnel. ‘He’s adjusted to every level he’s been at.’ Background posts: York County sports a miniature Cooperstown and Baseball’s Methuselah played for White Roses.
Several years ago, Hanover-area left-hander Mark Phillips scored a big contract with the San Diego Padres. But his career so far has gone nowhere, falling far short of the majors. Last summer, Phillips labored in the Central League before landing a pitching slot in the Atlantic League.
But now comes another Hanover-area southpaw – Robert Rohrbaugh – one of the Seattle Mariners’ top minor league prospects… .
The 24-year-old’s minor league record is 30-16 and he’ll start this season with the Tacoma Rainiers.
The Littlestown, Adams County, resident could join another left-hander with York County ties – the Florida Marlins’ Mark Hendrickson – in the big leagues some day.
So, to show York Town Square readers a star on the way up, here’s a recent York Daily Record/Sunday News story (2/10/08) on the local standout:
The baseball hit the target fast and hard, a gun shot reverberating through the gym.
The catcher, glove hand frozen, smiled in approval.
The pitcher nodded.
Some kids shooting hoops nearby looked around, jolted by the noise.
And the pitcher on the verge of the major leagues fired one practice pitch after another, fastballs and curves and changeups and sliders.
Almost every time, nearly on every pitch, Robert Rohrbaugh perfectly hit the target held up by his former high school coach, Steve Kress.
A small sign that big things are coming.
“There are days when his pitches are impeccable,” Kress said. “Nine out of 10, I don’t move.”
“I’ve always known I could do this,” said Rohrbaugh, who just turned 24. “Since I was a little kid I’ve always had this dream of being a big leaguer.”
Robert Rohrbaugh is right on track
This is how the dream is coming true:
Rohrbaugh spends his winters in this small, quiet hometown. He works out here in the bare bones YMCA weight room. He rests and relaxes. He eats chicken wings with old friends.
He tinkers around with his model trains.
“It’s pretty boring, but it keeps me out of trouble,” he said.
He’s the kid who still credits his mother and father for raising him right and putting him in this position. Growing up, “I was out on the mound and I spit or something,” Rohrbaugh said. “And my dad chewed me out when we got home, told me to stop hot-dogging. He said, ‘Get out there and get your work down and be humble.'”
This is the left-handed pitcher who has ascended quickly through the Seattle Mariners farm system and will be headed to major league spring training in Arizona on Tuesday. He is expected to begin the season with the Class AAA Tacoma Rainiers in Washington state.
He is one step away.
“I think Robert could get big league hitters out right now,” said Brad Holman, who worked with Rohrbaugh in Class AA and now is the pitching coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates’ affiliate in Altoona. “But it just depends on numbers and what the Seattle Mariners need at this time.”
“He’s knocking on the door of the big leagues,” said Greg Hunter, the Mariners’ director of player personnel. “He’s adjusted to every level he’s been at. He’s gutsy, he’s not intimidated.”
Rohrbaugh said it simply enough:
“I know I’m on the brink of something special.”
It was one thing to dominate YAIAA hitters at Littlestown High.
But it was quite another to pitch so well at Clemson University that he left after his junior year as a seventh-round draft choice of the Mariners.
Most impressive is the way he’s handled his minor league career.
It’s taken him parts of only three seasons to move through the entire system, highlighted by last year’s combined 13-8 record and 3.12earned run average at Class AA and Class AAA.
He was at his best at Tacoma, his last stop.
He won his first start there, went 6-3 with two complete games and a 2.95 ERA and was named the organization’s minor league pitcher of the year by MiLB.com. The Mariners named him their Class AAA pitcher of the year. Baseball America said he has the “best control” of any pitcher in
Seattle’s minor league system.
The thing is, he doesn’t overpower hitters with a plus-90 mph fastball.
He doesn’t have to.
“He pitches well inside. He’s very aggressive. He throws strikes,” said Daren Brown, his manager at Tacoma. “He’s going to give your team a chance to win every time he takes the mound.
“He’s a quiet guy in the clubhouse, not a guy who really sticks out. He goes about his business, does his work, takes the ball every fifth day and never has a problem.”
While he waits for a major league call-up, Rohrbaugh will work on developing his slider and improving his curve. Always, he must refine his control because he depends on that more than anything.
“I know I’m not a power pitcher by any means. I have to hit my spots when I’m out there. I see guys throwing 95 mile per hour who are getting ripped. Guys are hitting line drives off them all over the place.”
His pinpoint control is always on his mind, even while throwing in a T-shirt and shorts in the YMCA. Frustrated, he shook his head last week after one of his changeups sailed high and fat.
“That’s a home run, right there. Too much of the plate,” he said. “Belt high. In the happy zone.”
But he didn’t say another word, simply going back to hitting the target perfectly time after time.
“He’s got a good knowledge of the game, particularly when it comes to crunch time,” Holman said. “He’s just a big-game pitcher. He does better when something’s on the line, and that’s a rare commodity.”
For now, though, Rohrbaugh stays out of the headlines — a soft-spoken, control pitcher playing on the West Coast in the minors.
“I know it’s a pretty good chance that (making the majors) could happen this year. If I keep doing what I’ve been doing out on the field, I don’t see any reason why it’s not a realistic goal.
“This is something I’ve dreamed about and imagined for myself. I can see myself out there.”