Cincinnati Reds Unsung Heroes Continue to Produce

Eric Ball@@BigLeagueEballFeatured ColumnistAugust 26, 2010

Cincinnati Reds Unsung Heroes Continue to Produce

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    CINCINNATI - JULY 18: Miguel Cairo #43 of the Cincinnati Reds throws the ball to first base during the game against the Colorado Rockies at Great American Ball Park on July 18, 2010 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Sure, they have a possible Triple Crown candidate in Joey Votto—and fellow All-Stars Brandon Phillips and Scott Rolen. The pitching staff has been solid, if not spectacular, led by the most consistent pitcher in the majors: Bronson Arroyo.
     
    But the glue that keeps this team together is the bench. They are unsung heroes that have proven to be the WD-40 to the Reds' machine when it gets a bit rusty. The players that were expected to be afterthoughts have instead been essential to the Reds success.
     
    Dusty Baker has told media members that the team would be lost without them. Votto calls them "essential" to the team’s good fortunes. Here are the unsung heroes of the 2010 Reds.

Paul Janish

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    PITTSBURGH - AUGUST 03:  Paul Janish #7 of the Cincinnati Reds throws to first base during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on August 3, 2010 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Janish is known for his spectacular defense. He has incredible range and could perform a mean two-step with the incredible footwork is posses. He also has a cannon for an arm and has shown in the past that no play is out of his reach.
     
    The issue has always been his bat. The concern was horrific enough that the Reds had to sign Orlando Cabrera over the winter. Just as Janish was preparing for his first season as a starter, the Reds scooped up a new guy. So, Janish returned to a familiar place—the bench.
     
    Once Cabrera went to the DL, it was finally his time to show he indeed can carry a decent stick. He's played every day for a month and has produced a .286 average and a .366 OPS. He has collected 10 RBI in the eight spot in the lineup. He had the game tying single in the wacky 12-11 win over the Giants on Wednesday.
     
    I'd argue he should stay in the starting lineup when Cabrera and his .260 average, .302 OBP and limited range at short return. Tough decision for Dusty.

Ryan Hanigan

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    HOUSTON - JULY 23:  Hunter Pence #9 of the Houston Astros slides safely into home as catcher Ryan Hanningan #29 of the Cincinnati Reds is late with the tag in the fourth inning at Minute Maid Park on July 23, 2010 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/G
    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Being the backup catcher isn't quite a glamorous job. But Hannigan has looked oh-so smooth doing it. The 30-year-old has produced a .282 batting average in 52 games. He has knocked in 32 RBI, tripling his previous career high, and has solidified the bottom of the order.
     
    Hanigan is the personal catcher of Arroyo, but has hit his way into playing more than just every fifth day. The reliable "Hanny" has been a key tool on the Reds' belt.

Chris Heisey

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    PHOENIX - AUGUST 18:  Chris Heisey #28 of the Cincinnati Reds on deck during the Major League Baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 18, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Reds defeated the Diamondbacks 11-7.  (Photo by Christ
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Heisey was brought up in early May to make his major league debut. So far, so good for the 25-year-old out of Lancaster Pennsylvania, he has been invaluable as a late game replacement. He has blasted three pinch-hit bombs in the eighth inning or later.
     
    He provides stellar defense wherever you put him in the outfield. He hit .323 in the month of July with a .364 OBP. He has turned into one of Dusty's top pinch hitters in the late innings.
     
    The strikeouts need to be cut down (34 Ks and only 15 walks), and the .186 August average indicates he hasn't completely figured out how to hit major league pitching.
     
    As September approaches, the Reds will need Heisey to make the necessary adjustments to continue to be the feared bat he has been off the bench.

Logan Ondrusek

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    SEATTLE - JUNE 20:  Relief pitcher Logan Ondrusek #66 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches against the Seattle Mariners on June 20, 2010 at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Ondrusek is another rookie, whom has come out of nowhere to be a consistent contributor out of the Reds bullpen. He went 20 straight appearances without allowing an earned run. The 25-year-old Texas native has a nasty sinker that has stunning movement.
     
    He's 3-0 and has been the go to pitcher in the seventh inning lately for Dusty. Expect him to be placed in some huge situations over the next two months.

Jordan Smith

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    HOUSTON - JULY 24:  Pitcher Jordan Smith #62 of the Cincinnati Reds throws in the ninth inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on July 24, 2010 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Yet an additional rookie, Smith didn't come to the big club until the middle of June. Since then, he has been back-and-forth between Cincinnati and Louisville like a yo-yo.
     
    He allowed only a single run in his first 8.2 innings pitched. He has excelled in his role as a long reliever or situational pitcher. His location has been terrific, allowing only six walks compared to 21 Ks. The 3.67 ERA is a little misleading due to a few bad outings, but this kid has late inning potential.
     
    It will be interesting to watch his progress amidst a pennant race that's getting hotter than black concrete in August.

Miguel Cairo

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    HOUSTON - JULY 23:  Third baseman Miguel Cairo #43 of the Cincinnati Reds makes a play on a slow roller against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on July 23, 2010 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    The biggest unsung hero of them all? Cairo has been invaluable to the Reds with his ability to play anywhere on the field and provide timely hitting.
     
    Spring Training was a last ditch effort for Cairo to hang on with a team. The journeyman made a bet with his daughter he would make the squad—even she thought his career was over.
     
    Fast forward six moths and the Reds would not be in first with out him. After sitting next to a box of Dusty toothpicks until June, his number was called and he delivered.
     
    He has .287 average and .353 OBP, but the stats only tell half the story. Cairo is seeing the ball better than ever in his career. His 8.1 percent walk rate is a career high. He has a 27 percent rate of scorching a line-drive—much better than the league average.
     
    The 36-year-old Cairo also brings to the table a strong veteran presence amongst all the young Reds players. He has teamed with Rolen, Cabrera, and Rhodes to show this team how to win and keep winning.
     
    Playing for the veteran’s minimum, Cairo is a steal and a valuable piece of the '10 puzzle. A crucial ninth inning AB awaits and Reds fans can feel safe with him at the plate.

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