Logan Ondrusek the big man in the bullpen for Reds
• First save of career - May 9, at Milwaukee. First of two saves (other was against Atlanta on May 24.)
• 2.70 ERA in 43 appearances, 36 2/3 IP
• 3-2 record, 14 games finished this season
HOUSTON - Logan Ondrusek stands out because he stands above every one else.
Height alone isn't why he made a major league roster, or become a valuable member of the Cincinnati Reds bullpen. Its all about getting outs. And that is an area the Shiner St. Paul graduate has consistently excelled in this year.
"He doesn't seem to see the name on the back of the jersey, or a guy's stat sheet," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "This is what you like. He doesn't seem to be phased by who is at the plate."
Ondrusek has been the team's eighth inning specialist for arguably the best bullpen in baseball. His 43 appearances entering Tuesday was tied for second on the team in appearances.
Nearly two years after he recorded his first major league win, against the Astros no less, Ondrusek is back at the park closest to his hometown. The 6-foot-8 Ondrusek said it's always good to return to the Bayou City because his friends and family get to see him pitch.
As an added bonus he returns on a team that's in first place.
"It's really nice being on a first-place team," Ondrusek said. "Every day you come to the park its fun, it's energized. We're here and we want to win. That's what we have been able to do a lot lately and it makes it a lot more fun."
The Reds bullpen has the most wins (19) and lowest team earned-run average (2.49) in the league.
Ondrusek has been a big part of that, with a 4-2 record and a 2.70 ERA. He hasn't allowed a run in his last 6 1/3 innings, a streak spanning seven appearances. He's also stranded the last 14 baserunners inherited.
"It's been great," Ondrusek said. "Early on we had a bunch of injuries to our bullpen and people weren't sure how we were going to respond to it. We have a great group of guys and everyone picked up their spots, stepped up their role (or) gone into roles they weren't ready for, or used to. We have a great group who gel together and everyone has each other's back."
That cohesiveness in the bullpen may be in part because of their differences. Aroldis Chapman and Sean Marshall are strikeout pitchers. Bill Bray was described as a "funky" lefty, while Ondrusek is a ground ball pitcher who economizes his pitches.
"It helps us a lot," Baker said of Ondrusek's versatility. "Not only can he get right-handers out, he's pretty good against left-handers too, which helps. I don't have to always change when Logan sees a left-hander. We feel very confident to put Ondrusek in the game."
When Ondrusek was at St. Paul and McLennan Community College, he tried to strike everyone out. His former minor league manager Tom Brown suggested he attack hitters and try a cut fastball.
Those changes likely saved his career, as Ondrusek went from the Florida State League to the big leagues in less than two years. He's never forgotten those lessons from Brown, or taken his career for granted.
Ondrusesk wears No. 66, the number he was assigned in spring training in 2010, as a constant reminder of how far he's come. Since making the club in 2010 his workload has increased while his ERA has shrunk
"Sometimes, you sit in the bullpen watching the game, and you get lost in the moment," Ondrusek said. "You look around and think, 'I can't believe I'm actually here. It's been such a long journey,' and stuff like that."
Considering Shiner has produced a handful of professional baseball players over the years, Ondrusek laughed when asked whether he would mind if his hometown became as synonymous with baseball as it is with beer.
With that he grabbed his glove and was gone. Off to live the dream of being a major league baseball player.