"There's a little more pressure in the closer's role." Rosales said, "But the bottom line is you've just got to focus when you go in the game. That doesn't really change from the first inning to the last inning."
After 43 innings in 2003, mostly in middle relief at Eugene, Rosales cranked out 57 innings at Fort Wayne last season, but the extra workload did not affect Rosales, if anything he seemed to get better. He finished 2004 with 13 straight scoreless appearances, dominating opponents with three pitches he can throw for strikes.
"I just think I was locked in a little more," Rosales says of his scoreless streak. "Everybody has good days and bad days, I just went through a streak there where they were all good days. We were in the playoff race, and so I was locked in. I really felt like the hitters were getting tougher, making a lot more contact, getting better at bats, but they were hitting the ball right at guys, and I was getting great defense behind me. I was really focused, and it paid off."
Though he doesn't seem to have overpowering stuff, Rosales mixes his pitches well, keeping hitters off balance.
"I throw a four seam fastball, about 89 to 92 miles per hour and I've got a change that runs about 76 to 78."
That change is his best pitch, with great arm action and pinpoint location, and it may get even better.
"I kind of fooled around with the grip of the change up in college, but I didn't throw it a whole lot, never really developed it. When I got to my first mini-camp with the Padres, they told me I needed to work on it, and I did. I started throwing it a lot, learning how to throw it for strikes, and it has come a long way."
As good as Rosales has been, one of the reasons the Padres are so high on him is that he is still developing, both his pitches and his body. At 6-foot-1" the 185 pounds he carried through last season is still lighter than his frame will hold, especially in his legs.
"I've been lifting since September, I've been a lot better about hitting the weights than I was last season. The Padres said my leg strength could become an issue, and so I've really focused on that this offseason. That and working on my breaking ball," Rosales laughs, "it's kind of a cutter, or a slider, I guess it's sort of a slurve."
If Rosales doesn't even know what he's throwing, how is it possible the hitters are going to know how to hit it?
Rosales' strikeout totals were incredible in '04, he averaged 10.82 Ks per nine innings pitched, but he knows better than to start trying to strike guys out. "I don't want to think about strikeouts, because you can get caught up in the hype of being a 'strikeout pitcher.' I like to call myself a 'hang a zero' pitcher. I just don't want other teams to score. I really don't care if it's a strikeout or a fly ball to the warning track, as long as guys are making outs, it's fine with me."
Now that Rosales has seen action in all aspects of the bullpen, the next questions focus on where he'll be most effective at the next level.
"I like closing, it's fun, I guess you could say that's what I prefer, but I'll pitch wherever San Diego needs me."
Does that include starting?
"I think if I really worked on my conditioning I could be a starter, that's where I was in college. It would take some work, but I don't think it's out of the question. Whatever role gets me to the big leagues is where I'll pitch."
Last season was a nearly perfect one for Rosales. It is often said that winning comes second in the minor leagues, as the focus is always on individual player development, but for Rosales the winning was just as big an experience.
"I developed individually, sure. I worked on my pitches, my location, my stuff, but the entire pitching staff at Fort Wayne worked as a team. We were all helping each other, and we were doing that because we were trying to get to the playoffs. Everybody developed, everybody got better, because we worked as a staff, and as a team."
Rosales is viewed as a quick riser within the Padres organization. Entering his third season he'll likely see time in Double-A Mobile, his biggest test yet, but he's improving, finding his comfort zone, and when he's focused, spotting his pitches and changing speeds, it leaves the hitters feeling anything but comfortable.