April 5, 2012
LOS ANGELES - Six former UCLA standouts open the 2012 Major League Baseball season this week on major league rosters. In addition, over 25 baseball alumni will continue their professional careers this summer playing minor league baseball.
Brandon Crawford (San Francisco), Ben Francisco (Toronto), Casey Janssen (Toronto) and Josh Roenicke (Colorado) open the season Thursday and Friday for their respective major league clubs on active rosters. David Huff (Cleveland) and Chase Utley (Philadelphia) are currently on the disabled list.
At least one player from UCLA baseball team spanning 1965 through 2008 has competed in the major leagues. A handful of Bruins from the last three seasons, including top prospects Trevor Bauer (Arizona) and Gerrit Cole (Pittsburgh), could break through in the majors as early as this season.
Crawford (2006-08) played in 66 games for San Francisco in 2011, and enters this season projected as San Francisco's starting shortstop. Francisco (2001-02) was traded from the Philadelphia Phillies to the Toronto Blue Jays in the offseason and should compete for playing time in the outfield and off the bench.
Janssen (2001-04) missed the 2008 season with a shoulder injury, but has revitalized his career in Toronto's bullpen, recently signing a three-year extension with the Blue Jays. Roenicke (2003-06) was traded from Toronto to Colorado midway through last season, was elevated to the major league club in the second half of the year and will open this season contributing out of Colorado's bullpen.
Huff (2006) is currently nursing a strained right hamstring and is listed on the 15-day disabled list.
Utley (1998-2000) is out indefinitely with a knee injury. The Phillies' second baseman has led Philadelphia to two National League titles, one World Series championship and has been selected to play in four MLB All-Star Games.
UCLA's recent ballplayers have continued to ascend the minor league ranks. With minor league rosters still being set, three players are projected to open the season on triple-A rosters, and 10 minor leaguers are expected to begin the year with double-A teams.
Ron Roenicke, who played at UCLA in 1977, begins his second season as the Milwaukee Brewers' manager. Torey Lovullo, who starred for the Bruins from 1984-87, is now in his second season as the Toronto Blue Jays' first base coach. Dave Roberts, who played at UCLA from 1991-94 and became the school's all-time leader in stolen bases, begins his second year as the San Diego Padres' first base coach.
Players from the last four seasons who could push for a spot on major league rosters this season include Bauer, Cole, Charles Brewer (Arizona, double-A), Jermaine Curtis (St. Louis, triple-A), Cody Decker (San Diego, double-A), Dan Klein (Baltimore, double-A), Brendan Lafferty (Kansas City, double-A), Tim Murphy (Texas, double-A) and Rob Rasmussen (Miami, double-A).
In the 92-year history of UCLA's baseball program, 67 Bruins have had the opportunity to play Major League baseball. The most recent UCLA player to make his major league debut was Crawford (San Francisco) on May 27, 2011. Crawford belted a go-ahead grand slam in that game for San Francisco at Milwaukee.