Dorn gets a Major League at-bat
Reds prospect pinch-hits for first time in Grapefruit game
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
BRADENTON, Fla. -- It wasn't something that most, if anyone noted. It was hardly a blip on the radar for just about anyone paying attention, a pinch-hit appearance in another Grapefruit League game. But to Danny Dorn, it was pretty huge.
Dorn, the Reds outfield/first-base prospect, made the trip with the big league club to play the Pirates on Sunday. No big deal, right? Minor Leaguers come and go in Spring Training games without causing a blip on the radar. But it was not something that had previously happened to Dorn, now in his third spring in Sarasota, Fla.
"This is my first game, I'm really excited," Dorn said before the game. "Hopefully, I can get in, late in the game, get to pinch-hit or something."
That was exactly what happened, in the eighth inning. Dorn pinch-hit for Mike Lincoln. Facing Jason Davis, he flied out to left field. It might mean little more than that Dorn can now find his name in the Reds' Spring Training stats, but just being invited along for the ride was enough for the 24-year-old.
"It's great being around all the big league guys," Dorn said. "We all want to play in the big leagues, and getting the chance to be out here and be around the big league coaches, taking batting practice and being able to see a game from the bench is really exciting."
Afterward, it was back to the grind after his brief moment in the sun. Dorn is preparing for his third full season in the Reds organization. Cincinnati took him in the 32nd round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft as a senior out of Cal State-Fullerton and he's been making slow, but steady progress since.
Having four years as a part of the Fullerton program certainly didn't hurt. A large majority of college players come out after their junior year, but Dorn hit just .272 that season and saw his stock drop. He was taken by the Rays in the 23rd round, but decided to head back to school rather than enter their system. He bounced back with a .351 senior season that gave him another year to learn in one of the top college teams in the country.
"They really teach the game and the details of the game," said Dorn, who was part of the team that won the national title in 2004. "It helps slow the game down a little bit. I felt I was a little ahead of the game. You get a feel for it, and you can see things happen before they really do. Any advantage you can get, coming from a program like that, I was grateful for."
Dorn made his pro debut in the Pioneer League, and the Reds felt that his college experience would help him jump straight to the Class A Advanced Florida State League the next season, a leap he hanlded with aplomb. The outfielder ended 2007 in Double-A, hitting 20 homers, driving in 87 runs and batting a combined .287. It looked like Dorn was on his way.
The 2008 season wasn't quite as kind. It was not that he put up bad numbers -- .275 with 22 homers and a .537 slugging percentage -- but he played in just 103 games, missing considerable time because of a knee injury. That might have kept him in Double-A all season, something he hopes will change this season. He hopes his ticket is stamped with a different destination, but he's also just happy to be completely healthy and ready to go full tilt, whichever uniform he's wearing.
"I'm hoping Louisville, but whatever they have planned for me [is fine]," said Dorn, who added this is the best he's felt in a long time. "If I have to go back to Double-A [Carolina], as long as I'm playing baseball and healthy, I'll be happy."
Not that he wants to stay there. To add to his value, Dorn started adding first base to his resume. He got in close to 25 games last year, and it's been a big area of focus for him this spring.
"I've been playing a ton of first base," said Dorn, who last played the position in Little League. "I've been working there a lot, getting more comfortable there so I can play outfield and first base.
"Being left-handed, it's either first base or outfield, so I have to be able to play first. Whatever will help my chances to get to the big leagues, I'll do it."
If and when he gets there, at least all those movie references will make sense. You can't have the last name Dorn and play baseball and not get "Major League" references. For those unfamiliar, go and rent it right now. Corbin Bernsen's character, the third baseman, is Roger Dorn. Needless to say, Dorn can't go too many places without hearing about it. Even at the Spring Training game on Sunday, someone made a crack that they didn't know the Reds had Roger Dorn on the team. Luckily, the real Dorn likes the movie and takes it all in stride.
"Too much," Dorn said with a laugh about how often he hears it. "I've got it from fans. I've got it from umpires in between pitches. It's all in fun. A lot of teammates give me stuff about it. I just shake my head and give them a smile.
"It's a great baseball movie. Anybody who's played baseball has watched that movie and loves it. It's one of the most quoted movies when you're out on the baseball field."