Former Nationals prospects Danny Rosenbaum and Jeff Kobernus knew the Rule 5 draft was was today at 10 a.m. Eastern time (7 a.m. Pacific time in California, where Kobernus is).
And around that time they both considered the possibility of being picked up by another team, but did not let it dominate their thoughts.
Then the calls came in.
Kobernus, a second baseman, got his 15 minutes after the hour from his agent. He’d been taken by the Red Sox, and was later dealt to the Tigers.
“I couldn’t be any more excited,” Kobernus said as he headed to the gym for another workout. “My agent called me and told me I got picked up by the Red Sox, and then a half an hour later he said I got traded to the Tigers. I am overly excited to have the opportunity that I have now.”
Kobernus said he was doing “all right” in Double-A Harrisburg and then got hit by a pitch late in the year and missed the final six weeks with a broken rib.
“It was something that was unfortunate, but I am glad I have the opportunity now,” Kobernus said. “The Nationals gave me the opportunity to play Double-A. We played the Red Sox in the Eastern League and I am just fortunate.”
Kobernus still had a pretty solid year for Harrisburg, batting .282 with 93 hits, one homer and 19 RBIs in 82 games. He said the emotions of being selected in the Rule 5 draft are similar to the day he was drafted by the Nationals in 2009.
“It is definitely exciting and the feeling, it can’t really be put into words,” Kobernus said. “The only other feeling that I had this is when I was first drafted by the Nationals and obviously this is further along in my career and further up the ladder, so it is equally exciting, if not more exciting.”
Kobernus said one of the biggest lessons he learned this season was in his mindset and in working to make the most of the chance to play pro ball at the Double-A level. He felt that chance given to him by the Nationals made all the difference for today.
“I think one of the big things is to never take it for granted,” Kobernus said. “They always preach that if you have a jersey on your back, you have an opportunity. They also preach you are out here playing for the Nationals, but (other) people are always watching. I am grateful to the Nationals for the opportunity they gave me and molding me into the player I am so to have an opportunity with the Tigers.”
Equally grateful is Rosenbaum, a left-hander who was a 22nd-round selection in 2009 and worked his way into being one of the top prospects in the organization. In 2011, he was named the Single-A Potomac Nationals Player of the Year and the MiLB.com organizational Player of the Year.
Rosenbaum’s call from his agent came eight minutes into the draft.
“When my agent called me, he is like, ‘Danny, you just got picked up by the Rockies,’” he recalled. “I was like, ‘No way!’ I didn’t want to get my hopes up today. When I got the call, I was ecstatic. I have been shaking since 10:08. I am just really excited to get an opportunity.
“The Nationals treated me so well and really got me to this point where I am today. The organization is getting so good. I am glad I got the chance to be with them, but also the opportunity to pursue my dream.”
Rosenbaum is ready to grab this opportunity and go with it. He has family in Denver. When he got married two weeks ago to his wife, Alexis, they had talked about places they might want to live someday and Colorado was one place they discussed.
Rosenbaum finished 8-10 with a 3.94 ERA in 26 starts for Harrisburg, striking out 99 and walking 39. He lost five of his final six decisions, but felt the dip in the season came more at the halfway mark and then he started to build back up and get some consistency on the mound.
“I think more towards the middle of the season, I started going downhill and ran into a mental speed bump,” Rosenbaum said. “And more towards the end of the year, I started to build my confidence up. I hadn’t really failed in professional baseball yet and it was tough for me, but it was a great learning experience for me.”
Rosenbaum was getting ground balls late in the year, but they were finding holes. He said he will learn from the experience and carry it into next season.
He will also miss working with Harrisburg pitching coach Paul Menhart and will cherish what Menhart taught him over the years.
“He is like my second dad,” Rosenbaum said. “He helped me so much since I signed. There are a lot of other coaches in the organization, but Paul has been right there with me pretty much the whole way. He has taught me so much about the game, not only mechanically, but the mental side of it. He has been a tremendous help to me in my career.”
Kobernus and Rosenbaum must be kept on the 25-man major league roster of their new clubs for the entire 2013 season, or be offered back to the Nationals for half the $50,000 draft price.
In the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft, the Nationals lost two players off their Triple-A Syracuse roster. Left-hander Jack McGeary was taken by the Red Sox and right-hander Hector Nelo was selected by the Dodgers.