HEY PAUL JANISH, HOW'S IT GOIN'?
Hey Reds Faithful, thanks for logging on…Yesterday I had a very nice phone conversation with Reds shortstop Paul Janish. Paul is one of my favorite guys on the team and a class-act dude. Among some of the things we talked about were what he’s been doing during the offseason, who is favorite players were while he was growing up, the Aroldis Chapman signing and how he thinks the Reds will fare in 2010. I was going to include the audio file of our conversation, but the sound quality was unusually poor and I didn’t want to trouble you guys with that. However, the full text of the interview is below. Enjoy!
Bettter Off Red: Paul, welcome.
Paul Janish: Hey, how’s it goin?
BOR: Paul can you give everyone out there an idea of what you’ve been doing this offseason?
PJ: Well, I had kind of an eventful offseason. I got married in November and after that, I’ve been working out. I started hitting a couple of weeks ago and just kind of been enjoying some downtime here in Houston.
BOR: How’s married life?
PJ: Good so far, good so far. We haven’t had enough time to get into a fight, so everything is going well.
BOR: Where was the honeymoon?
PJ: We went to Aruba. Unfortunately, it was over the same dates as Redsfest, so I was unable to make that, but we had a great time in Aruba.
BOR: What were your initial thoughts when you heard the team signed Aroldis Chapman?
PJ: I was out of town in south Texas at a buddy’s ranch and I got a text from Jay Bruce asking what I thought about it. I thought he was being funny, joking around…
I think the signing shows the organization is looking to go in the right direction, obviously. It’s a big sign, a big commitment of money to the guy. But they obviously believe that he’s going to help take the team where it needs to go. There’s nothing left to do but be excited about it. I hope everything goes well with him.
BOR: The reports on Chapman is that he can pump that fastball up to over 100 miles per hour but might need to work a little bit on his control. Now with that being said, are you going to be the first to jump in the box this spring when it’s time for him to face live batters?
PJ: Ha, the chances probably aren’t real good but you know, when the guy has an arm like that, it’s a big commodity that doesn’t come around very often. The guys we have in the organization – the new pitching coach (Bryan Price) and guys like Mario Soto and the pitching coaches in the minor leagues – those guys are going to be able to help get him where he needs to be and help him mature as a player.
BOR: Speaking of Spring Training, this is shaping up to be a very important camp for you; you seem to be the first one in line to call dibs on that shortstop position. Will that have a positive effect on how you enter camp or is that something you’re not going to try and think too much about?
PJ: To be honest, I’m just gonna take it for what it’s worth. I’m excited obviously, because like you said, up to this point – and that’s relative because we have a lot of time left before camp and a lot of guys that are left unsigned – but if the season started today it’d look like I’d be the starting shortstop and there’s nothing left to do but be excited about that. I’m looking at it as an opportunity to prove that I’m the guy they want to have there and hopefully that’ll lead to a big season and a good season as a team in general.
BOR: After Alex Gonzalez was dealt last year to the Red Sox, you became the Reds’ starting shortstop and led all Major League shortstops with a .995 fielding percentage during the last 2 months of the season. I think everyone is aware of your ability at short, but amazingly I think you’re still underrated defensively. Who taught you the position and what did you do to become so polished defensively?
PJ: I don’t know if I have a great answer for that but when I was young, for whatever reason fielding, catching and throwing always came natural to me. I take a lot of pride, relatively speaking, that I’m well thought of in the organization and among baseball people. I take a lot of pride in it and I don’t take it for granted and I keep working on it. That’s just kind of the way I look at playing a position like shortstop. You know, you gotta play defense first and I’m looking to improve on my offensive numbers, and I’m sure that’s going to happen this year as well.
BOR: With you at short and Brandon at second, that makes for a pretty formidable infield up the middle and a solid double play combination. What’s it like working with Brandon on your left?
PJ: Well Brandon’s ability speaks for itself. He’s obviously won a Gold Glove a year ago, and it doesn’t take long to look up some of his highlights and the plays he makes – going up the middle, going to his left, over in the hole. It makes it a lot easier having a guy that is kind of a pillar (of strength and consistency) in the infield and I think that’s what he’s kind of become to the team. Hopefully it stays that way. And I’m looking to become the guy he becomes accustomed to and we get to work together for a little while.
BOR: And now for the offensive side. You’ve only had more than 400 at-bats in a season twice. In 2006 with Dayton, Sarasota and Chattanooga you combined to bat .304 in 448 at-bats. In 2007, you hit .235 in 523 at-bats with Chattanooga and Louisville. What is the better assessment of your hitting ability – the 2006 Paul Janish or the 2007 Paul Janish?
PJ: In ’06 it was of one of those seasons where I found my niche and was locked in the whole year and played really well. It was kind of the opposite in ’07 when I went the other way and kind of struggled through the whole year. You know, it’s just one of those things . All I can say is you work your hardest to get better and hopefully we can find somewhere in the middle of that .304 and that .235 and put that up this year in the big leagues, and if so, I think we’ll be in good shape!
BOR: Are you confident that you can do that?
PJ: I really am. Last year I went into camp and didn’t know what to expect and even though I was on the roster, it really didn’t look like there was a spot for me. With Jeff Keppinger getting traded right at the end of Spring Training, it kind of opened the door. I was so excited to make my first big league team out of Spring Training that it was one of those things where it was just a complete roller coaster of emotions. Now, being comfortable, being in the big leagues, feeling like if I do what I need to do in Spring Training, I’m gonna be on the team as opposed to being blindsided by being able to make the team.
BOR: Yeah, it did kind of hit you all at once last year. This year, you’re better prepared I guess, knowing what your goals are and what’s in store for you.
BOR (tongue firmly in cheek here): Paul, you made your professional pitching debut in the Major Leagues last season without throwing a single pitch in the minors. That’s almost unheard of in this day in age. The Reds clearly think highly of your ability on the mound. However with a 49.50 ERA in 2 appearances, do you think maybe you were rushed by the organization?
PJ: (Laughter) I don’t know if “rushed” is the right word…I don’t know how to describe it. All I do hope is that I end my career with the same ERA, meaning that I don’t ever (pitch) again! You know it was all in good fun but obviously in those situations it’s not a very positive circumstance for the team. But we had a good time with it, but like I said, I’ll be ok if it never happens again.
BOR: In all seriousness, I think Prince Fielder and Jayson Werth were stealing signs when they faced you but, hey let’s talk about the strikeouts. How did it feel to fan your first batter JJ Hardy back in May?
PJ: It was pretty good. I’m sure he caught quite a bit of razzing from his teammates. I know if that happened to us, we’d probably do the same thing…
BOR: But in reality, you nearly struck out the side, you had 2 strikeouts in that game.
PJ: Ha, I know! I was a victim of circumstance. There were a couple of less-than squared up balls that got through the infield and they dumped a few in…just a victim of circumstance really.
BOR: This year, you’ll be on your first Reds Caravan trip, is that correct?
PJ: That’s right, that’s right.
BOR: You’ll be traveling (Thursday 1/28 and Friday 1/29 only) on the Southern Tour with Dusty and Eric Davis and Zack Cozart, to name a few. Are you aware of the heated rivalries among the 3 caravan busses?
PJ: I’m actually not very familiar to be honest. Like you said, I’ve never done it before but I’m looking forward to getting up there and traveling around.
BOR: Ok, well Marty Brennaman’s route likes to consider itself the “Rock Star Tour” and tends to refer to Thom Brennaman’s route as the “Minor League Leg.” The bus you’ll be on actually flies under the radar, but still takes a little bit of heat from the other busses. You’re fairly well-liked, so I think you’ll be ok.
PJ: Let’s hope for the best, I guess! I’m not real familiar, but something tells me I’ll get thrown into the fire and figure it out quick!
BOR: Well, don’t get thrown under the bus, as they say.
PJ: Yeah, right!
BOR: Paul, who were your favorite players growing up in Texas?
PJ: You know I grew up an Astros fan, which has obviously changed here of late, but I’d have to go with a guy like Nolan Ryan. He was a guy I really appreciated and liked growing up for a lot of reasons. He’s kind of a hard-nosed guy, and a hard guy not to like here in Houston.
BOR: Anyone else?
PJ: I guess when I was in junior high and high school, there were guys like Biggio and Bagwell who were our go-to guys. It was fun to watch them for a such long period of time with the Astros. That kind of thing doesn’t typically happen anymore in baseball, so it was fun to watch.
BOR: They used to beat up on the Reds a little bit, too.
BOR: Was Glen Davis there when you were growing up?
PJ: Yeah, he was! The big bopper. He was a heckuva first baseman for however long he was with the Astros.
BOR: Do you ever talk to Hatch (Billy Hatcher) about those Astros teams?
PJ: Yeah, I give him a hard time actually because I grew up watching him, too. There’s one highlight in particular of him hitting a home run off Jesse Orosco (Game 6 of the 1986 NLCS, 14th inning) and it was right down the line and he moonwalked to first base! I tell ya what, Hatch was a heckuva player.
BOR: You know before he hit that home run off Jesse Orosco, he could’ve very well been called out on strikes. He took a pitch that was arguably a third strike, then hit the next one out of the ballpark.
PJ: I’m sure Hatch would tell you it was just a good call.
BOR: From August 23 to the end of the season, the Reds went 27-13, boasting the best record in the big leagues during that stretch. Obviously that’s something to build on going into 2010. Give us your honest assessment of how you think this club will fare in the upcoming season. What are the strengths of this club and what is it do you think the team needs to work on?
PJ: You know to be honest, it was a fun time during the last two months of the season and as far as I’m concerned, personally, I think it helped the way the front office viewed me going into the 2010 season. Based on the fact that the team played so well, it may have helped me out. As far as the team itself, we’re going to be strong defensively, no doubt about that. Everyone in the infield is above average and we got some guys in the outfield who can flat-out run. Regardless who ends up playing, that stuff will work itself out. We’re going to have a strong defense. With the pitching, we just really need guys to stay healthy. Obviously, Volquez is going to start the season on the DL and you just need to make sure he gets right before he gets back. With the likes of Cueto and Homer, who finished the second-half really well, and mainstays Aaron and Bronson, it looks to be a very strong pitching and defense-type club. I tell ya what, Joey Votto is one of the best young hitters in baseball, I don’t care what anybody says. If you watch him day in and day out, there’s just no doubt about it. With the likes of him and Brandon in the middle of the lineup with Rolen and Jay, it’s just a really volatile and dangerous situation in a good way.
BOR: So you think there’s a chance the Reds are going to compete this year and contend for the playoffs?
PJ: Without a doubt. I think you gotta have that attitude and we as a team have to develop it. Dusty always talks about showing up almost ticked off, with a kind of a chip on your shoulder when you come to play everyday. I think that’s the mentality you gotta have, no doubt about it.
BOR: I think the Reds fans out there would be glad to hear that…Hey Paul, thanks a lot for taking time out today to join us.
PR: Thanks a lot, I appreciate it Jamie.
BOR: Alright man, see ya.