Two years later, Halos come back to Roach
Righty's status helped by being teammate of Harper
ANAHEIM -- The Angels liked Las Vegas right-hander Donn Roach enough out of high school to draft him in the 40th round in 2008.
But would they have taken him at No. 115 overall this year in Compensation Round B, between the third and fourth rounds, if it weren't for his teammate at the College of Southern Nevada, Bryce Harper?
The presence of the top overall pick by the Washington Nationals certainly didn't hurt.
"Oh, definitely it helped," said Roach, who's 6-foot-1, 200 pounds. "It helped everyone. General managers at every other game, how could that not help? It's a different level with Harper being on the team just because of who he is. I think we dealt with it pretty well, we got pretty used to it after a while."
After Roach's 2009 at the University of Arizona, all the general managers watching him in the world wouldn't have mattered if he didn't turn things around. In his lone season with the Wildcats, Roach went 1-4 with a 7.84 ERA in 20 appearances, only seven of which were starts. He had the same amount of walks, 22, as he did strikeouts in 41 1/3 innings.
"I was a wreck," Roach said. "I had totally forgot how to pitch. I didn't know what I was doing. My arm slot had gotten way over the top. I just didn't know what it was.
"I slacked off, didn't go to class. I was uncomfortable, it wasn't really the place for me and it didn't work out like I wanted to."
In August, Southern Nevada coach Tim Chambers saw how out of whack Roach's arm slot had become, and asked him, in so many words, what the heck happened to him.
A transfer to the junior college, Roach put in the work necessary to turn things around. He would wake up at 5 a.m. to work out with local trainer Tim Soder, who has worked with big leaguers Reed Johnson and Aaron Rowand, and he overloaded his class schedule so he could graduate this spring, taking on as many as 24 credits in a semester. His GPA always stayed above 3.0, Chambers said.
"Tremendous work ethic," said Chambers, who called Roach on Tuesday to let him know he was drafted. "Not to mention he's a real leader and super funny."
With Southern Nevada trailing in a game earlier this season, Roach dressed up like Harper, who had struck out earlier in the game, putting on eye black. Harper later hit a go-ahead home run.
"I was just messing around, trying to loosen him up," Roach said.
Roach's ceiling may not be the highest, but he has three effective pitches, relying on his low-90s fastball about 80 percent of the time, then his breaking ball and a splitter. He's working on a changeup so he can keep starting as he progresses in the Minors, and he favors a two-seam fastball to a four-seamer. He works out of a three-quarters arm slot.
"Probably the best pitch maybe I saw anybody throw this year for any team was his breaking ball," Chambers said.
Roach said he was taken where he was expected to go by the team he expected would take him. But there was a time when his relationship with the Angels had soured.
"When I got drafted out of high school, [Angels scouting director] Eddie Bane and my family had a falling out, got into a verbal war over a couple days," Roach said. "At the beginning of the season when I got my stuff together and started pitching well again, I asked one of the scouts who I know pretty well for Eddie Bane's number and I called him up and told him, 'Hey, the past is the past and I want to play pro ball.'"
"We took him out of high school and didn't get it done," Bane said. "He wanted to attend the University of Arizona."
Now, with Roach ready to sign, any discordance in the past.
"I'm pretty excited," he said. "It's what I've worked for my whole life. Hopefully there's a whole lot more to be excited about. It was a pretty fun day."
Evan Drellich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.