Rick Roberts missed a late-night phone call from one of his former pitchers on Friday.
When the Pitt-Johnstown pitching coach and Flood City Elite founder saw Braxton Roxby’s name on his caller ID just before midnight, Roberts figured it most likely was good news about the right-handed pitcher in the Cincinnati Reds’ minor league system.
“I assumed last night, when he called me that late, he was probably getting called up,” Roberts said on Saturday afternoon. “I’m an early riser, so I texted him at 6:30 this morning and asked, ‘What’s up?’ ”
A Windber Area High School graduate and former Pitt-Johnstown standout, Roxby told Roberts he had been promoted by the Reds to the Chattanooga Lookouts in the Double-A South League.
“Super news,” said Roberts.
“He’s worked really hard. Great kid. He busts his butt. He’s really developed.”
The former Martella’s Pharmacy AAABA Tournament pitcher earned a promotion in his first professional season.
Roxby, 22, had a 2-2 record with five saves and a 1.30 earned run average in 21 games with the Dayton Dragons in High A Central. Using an effective slider as his go-to pitch, Roxby struck out 46 and walked 16 in 272/3 innings of relief.
“Friday night, they told him he was moving up to Double-A,” said an ecstatic Pitt-Johnstown head coach Todd Williams.
“He’s been doing really well.
“It’s great for him to move up that quick. The first year in professional baseball, going to High A and now being sent up to Double-A is really good.”
Reached by cellphone Saturday afternoon, Roxby said he was in the midst of a hectic travel schedule en route to Chattanooga and would have to discuss the news once he’s settled in with his new team. The Lookouts had a home game against the Birmingham Barons on Saturday night.
“I texted him this morning, told him, ‘Great job. Keep up all the hard work.’ He thanked me and said he was ready to hit the road,” Williams said of Roxby, who signed with the Reds as a free agent in June 2020.
“The life of a minor leaguer,” said Roberts, a former 10th-round draft pick who pitched seven seasons in the Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Dodgers organizations, advancing as high as Triple-A.
“This is Braxton’s first full season. To start in High A at his age and get promoted to Double-A is unreal,” Roberts said.
“That means you really dominated in High A, to get a promotion this early. He’s got a major-league slider. That’s what separates him.”
The 6-foot-3 Roxby uses a sweeping slider in the low 80s mph range and a 20-inch horizontal break, Roberts said.
His repertoire also includes a four-seam fastball in the low 90s. The Reds worked with a pitch referred to as a one-seam fastball, Roxby said earlier this year.
Roxby joins Ferndale graduate and Mount St. Mary’s product Trey McGough as area players in Class Double-A. A left-handed starting pitcher, McGough is 2-2 with a 3.61 ERA in eight games since joining the Altoona Curve in the Double-A Northeast. He has 37 strikeouts and 10 walks in 421/3 innings with Altoona.
“They’re both such great kids,” Williams said. “Trey works out (in the area) in the offseason. He busts his butt. Both of them, I’d love to see them make it. I’m happy for Trey. I’m happy for Braxton.
“Everybody at UPJ says they’ve never seen anyone work as hard as Braxton. He’s always doing something to improve himself.”
Both Roxby and McGough are former AAABA Tournament players with the Martella’s Pharmacy franchise.
McGough played in the 2017 AAABA Tournament, pitching 62/3 innings and striking out seven in a seven-inning 14-1 win over Altoona. The following summer, Roxby earned the Pete Vuckovich Award in the local league and was the winning pitcher as Martella’s edged Altoona 6-5 to advance to the 2018 AAABA championship game.
The Pharmacy beat New Orleans in the title game, giving Johnstown its first AAABA Tournament crown in 74 years.
“Braxton and Trey McGough are both one phone call away,” Roberts said.
Mike Mastovich is a sports reporter and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5083. Follow him on Twitter @Masty81.