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dougdirt
03-28-2007, 05:54 PM
Taken From www.milb.com (http://www.milb.com)
By Lisa Winston

Team: Cincinnati Reds
Location: Sarasota, Fla.
Date: March 27, 2007

Burning Question

How has the "trinity of shortstop prospects" (Paul Janish, Chris Valaika and Milton Loo) shaken out and how will they break camp?

For now, at least, that trinity is a duo, as Loo has yet to report to camp due to family issues at home in Hawaii.

Had all three prospects been present and accounted for, the tentative plan was for Janish to start at Double-A Chattanooga, Valaika at Class A Advanced Sarasota and Loo at Class A Dayton.

That would have meant that Valaika, the club's third-round pick in 2006 out of UC Santa Barbara, would be skipping a level from Class A Short-Season Billings, where he earned Pioneer League MVP honors as he hit .324 with eight home runs and 60 RBIs.

He also fashioned a league-record 32-game hitting streak down the stretch.

Now, with a week remaining in camp, the likelihood is that Valaika will join the bulk of his Mustangs teammates in the move to Dayton, but that is not yet definite. He could still land in Sarasota, since the likely middle infielders there, Adam Rosales and Eric Eymann, are not 100 percent healthy.

"Sarasota is still within the realm of possibility ... because we do have some guys dinged up from the Sarasota roster and it will depend on how they come along," said Terry Reynolds, the Reds' director of player development. "Our goal is to keep the [Billings] kids together at Dayton, but if injuries force us to change that plan we have all the faith in the world that Valaika can go there and play well."

Janish, meanwhile, joins the Lookouts roster, where he finished up a three-level climb in 2006.

The team's fifth-round pick in 2004 out of Rice, Janish missed all of 2005 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. When he returned to the field in '06, he got off to a hot start, hitting .398 at Dayton and spent most of the season at Sarasota. He finished up with a cup of coffee at Chattanooga, combining to hit .304 with 14 home runs and 75 RBIs between the three stops.

Janish wields a live bat and flashes an outstanding glove , projecting to be the likely member of the trio to stick at shortstop (with the popular thinking being that Valaika would eventually shift to second and Loo to either third or the outfield).

Loo has had Reds fans anticipating his arrival for a while as he was drafted twice by the team, first out of high school in Molokai and then out of junior college. The second time around he was drafted in the ninth round of 2005 and signed after finishing a season at Yavapai (Ariz.) Community College as a draft-and-follow.

He hit .372 for their Gulf Coast League team in 14 games last summer before an elbow injury ended his season prematurely.

Other News of the Day

Happily, the other big news in camp is good news as two top pitching prospects who missed significant time with shoulder injuries both appear to be close to regaining their form.

Right-handers Richie Gardner and Thomas Pauly could both break camp as high as Chattanooga if not with one of the Class A clubs, though their official destinations are not yet known.

Gardner, who threw four innings for the Lookouts on Tuesday, appeared in just 13 games in '05 and pitched 33 innings in '06. Signed as a non-drafted free agent at the end of '03, he posted a 2.52 ERA between two Class A stops in his '04 pro debut, striking out 139 batters and walking just 26 in 156 innings.

Pauly missed all of the past two seasons after leading the Carolina League in '04 with 135 strikeouts in 121 innings while posting a 2.97 ERA. A Princeton product taken in the second round of 2003, he's a little bit behind Gardner in his comeback, up to just two innings per outing so far, but may still break camp with the rest of his teammates, possibly even in a piggyback tandem with Gardner.

"I don't know if that will happen for sure, but it shows you how far they've come," said Reynolds. "Both have been throwing the ball well."

Another pitcher who looked good as he makes a comeback from shoulder surgery which limited him to just 20 innings in '06 is a newcomer to Reds camp, RHP Daryl Thompson. The organization acquired him in last summer's multi-player trade with the Washington Nationals and had yet to see what he could do. The eighth-rounder from 2003 tossed a few innings on Tuesday and while he had some command issues, his great stuff was more than evident in that brief outing. He had posted a 3.35 ERA in 11 starts at Class A Savannah in 2005 before going down to labrum surgery. ... It's rare that you see the defensive designation C/SS but that's the best way to describe Justin Tordi. A shortstop at Florida, he caught at Billings in his '06 pro debut. However, with the aforementioned injuries to some of the Class A shortstops, the Reds have decided to have him return, at least part-time, to his old position and will break camp with either Sarasota or Dayton in that role. "He's probably as good a defensive shortstop as we have," Reynolds said. ... Also seeing time in two positions is top prospect Jay Bruce, who is splitting his time between center field and right field. The first-round pick from '05 has been used in that role for a while as the club wants to get him innings at both positions for as long as it can. His eventual destination is also on the bubble as the big-league roster continues to be tweaked. He led the organization with 81 RBIs at Dayton last year in his first full season, but has been seeing time as high as Triple-A this spring. "As a staff, we all feel he could play anywhere we put him, but in his best interest, and I think [GM] Wayne [Krivsky]'s philosophy, is if we're going to err, let's do it on the side of caution," Reynolds said. "So if I had to tell you today, I'd say he would be on the Sarasota roster. But we also have a lot of guys dinged up on the big-league club [which may trickle down and affect the outfielders] so if we had to put him in Chattanooga I think everyone would be very comfortable with that." ... That trickle-down from the bigs is still pending, as talk-of-the-camp Rule 5 pick Josh Hamilton has all but made the club, meaning some combination of outfielders Chris Denorfia and Norris Hopper and backup catcher Chad Moeller will be coming back to Louisville. Denorfia hit .349 in 83 games with the Bats in '06 and Hopper, one of the feel-good stories of the year in the Minors, won the International League batting title with a .347 mark at Louisville, stealing 25 bases and making his Major League debut in his ninth pro season, hitting .359 with the Reds. Either or both would be solid additions to the Bats' lineup.

Five Questions with Chris Valaika

MiLB.com: What was it like last year when the fall rolled around and for the first time you weren't going to school?

CV: It was a little bizarre. You know, your whole life it's something you do and now you come out and play baseball and that's your job. But it's fun. It's even more fun. It's something you've done since you were a little kid but now people pay to watch you play. You walk around and people want you to sign your card and you just wonder, "How do you know me?" It's great.

MiLB.com: At what point last season during your 32-game hitting streak did you realize what was going on and how special it was? How much did you think about it during games?

CV: I really tried not to think about it. Everybody else thought about it a lot more than I did. I didn't even know about it until our announcer told me about it when it was at 22, five short of the Billings record of 27. But I didn't change my approach. I just went out every night and tried to help my team win and if not, then I'd plan to start a new streak.

MiLB.com: Identify one person in history you'd like to have dinner with and why.

CV: Derek Jeter. I've grown up watching him, the great shortstop that he is. I'd like to find out how he goes about his business every day as a professional and ask how much fun is he still having.

MiLB.com: What is your proudest accomplishment, on or off the field?

CV: Being honored for playing on the U.S. national teams. I played on every youth national team from seventh grade all the way through college. It's a great experience hearing your national anthem played and having the medal put around your neck. I was fortunate enough to play with (Reds' 2006 first-rounder) Drew Stubbs and we roomed together last year after he got drafted so that was great.

MiLB.com: What is your favorite aspect of playing in the Reds organization and why?

CV: Just the traditions. To be around guys who have had such great careers and help you every day. The organization has great tradition.

Lasting Impression

The biggest eye opener among the Minor Leaguers in Reds camp this spring was shortstop prospect Paul Janish.

"That's not just coming from me, that's coming from the Major League manager," said Reynolds.

"We had a meeting with all our Minor Leaguers, headed by [manager] Jerry [Narron] and Wayne [Krivsky] on what it takes to be in the big leagues and what it takes to stay in the big leagues. I think Janish got more time than Jerry and Wayne did just using him as an example of how to conduct yourself when you do get up there and how to conduct yourself when you get sent back. So I think in everybody's mind he was the news of the spring."

Janish started at shortstop for the Lookouts in their Tuesday inttasquad game against Louisville, but with a week before camp breaks it was actually one of his first appearances on the Minor League side. He'd been seeing more time than had been expected over in big-league camp.

"The staff over there really appreciated how hard he plays and how hard he works, and when they put him in games he did everything they wanted to see so they kept calling him back," Reynolds said. "His attitude is great. He really put himself on the map over there with the big-league guys and now anything can happen. You've seen guys jump from Double-A to the big leagues many times in the past and he certainly has that possibility if they have that need."

Another player making an outstanding impression in his first Spring Training has been outfielder Drew Stubbs, the Reds' first-round pick last spring out of Texas.

"Stubbs works hard, the guys all like him, and when you ask him to make adjustments he makes them," Reynolds said of the center fielder who hit .252 with six homers, 24 RBIs and 19 steals at Billings in his pro debut. "He runs to all the drills, he's enthusiastic and he's actually gotten into a couple of big-league games and got a few infield hits so he made a good impression in his first big-league camp."

Off the Beaten Path

If any fans planned on strolling by the back fields at Ed Smith Stadium for the usual 1 p.m. camp games, they probably just saw a whole lot of nothing. Intrasquad games began at 10 a.m. and by noon everyone was done.

But it's not like when you're in Sarasota there's nothing to do but watch baseball.

Head just a little bit to the west and enjoy a day, or at least an afternoon, over on Siesta Key beach which boasts one of the softest and loveliest beaches you can imagine.

Shop in any of the artisan boutiques in the village and then be sure to check out the Daiquiri Deck on Ocean Boulevard (21 and over for the drink of course!) where you can taste ... well, far too many different concoctions to even consider in one sitting (even if you have a designated driver).

Parting Shots

In his first Spring Training as player development director since moving over from a strictly scouting role, Reynolds has been enjoying the ride and is very grateful for the job that veterans Tim Naehring (field coordinator), Grant Griesser (assistant director of player development) and Mack Jenkins (Minor League pitching coordinator) have been doing to ease that transition.

"I've learned a lot and the people who put it together have a great plan," Reynolds said.

Now his biggest challenge as camp winds down is trying to make sure he has enough bodies to plug into the needed holes as several players are suffering the usual dings and scratches of Spring Training.

"At this part of the process you see what your needs are and struggle to fill all the holes," he said. "But you've got what you've got so we move on and look forward to the season."