Ask most members of the Reds player development system to name a player that advanced the furthest in 2009, and you will probably hear the name Logan Ondrusek.
The big 6'8" former Dragons pitcher started the season in Single-A, made a stop in Double-A, and finished in Triple-A. The results were amazingly consistent all every level.
Overall, Ondrusek pitched in 56 games out of the bullpen, posting a record of 4-1 with 19 saves and an outstanding earned run average of 1.50. He reached the Triple-A Louisville Bats in late July and worked in 19 games there, notching 12 saves with a 1.74 ERA while allowing runs in just four games. Following the season, Ondrusek was rewarded for his efforts by being placed on the Reds 40-man roster. He will report to spring training with the Reds in February.
Ondrusek pitched for the Dragons in 2006 on a team that also included the likes of Jay Bruce, Johnny Cueto, Paul Janish, Adam Rosales, Carlos Fisher, Robert Manuel, and Jeff Stevens, all future major leaguers.
Ondrusek's 2009 season started with a third straight year in Sarasota, offering no hint of what was to come.
Dragons broadcaster Tom Nichols recently spoke with Ondrusek, who credits Sarasota pitching coach Tom Brown with turning around his career. Here is a partial transcript of the interview.
Click the link above to listen to the entire interview.
Q: Logan, what a storybook season for you. You really had to be thrilled with the way things went in 2009.
LO: Yes sir. Started off the year not knowing what to expect being back in Sarasota for the third straight year. But the coaches there gave me a lot of encouragement to go out and do your best and everything should fall into place. With the help of Tom Brown, I learned a cutter and things took off from there.
Q: How instrumental was the cutter in the success that you had over the full season?
LO: It pretty much changed my career completely around because for the longest time I had a problem getting left-handers out, and they would be the guys that gave me the most problems. And having that cutter to come inside on them, get in on their hands, it made them pay more respect to the fact that I can go inside on them now and I have other stuff to go after them as well, but it turned out that the cutter pretty much became my primary pitch. I just kept relying on that until people proved they could hit it.
Q: As you continued moving up, you kept having success at each level. Did you just say, "I am going to keep doing what I have been doing?"
LO: That's right. The whole thing that everybody was always preaching to me was confidence, confidence, confidence. You've gotta have confidence in your ability and this year it finally clicked and I finally gained the confidence that I needed and I was going out there knowing that if I threw my best pitch, the hitter didn't have a chance of beating me.
Q: You got a chance to be a closer this season. How did you enjoy that pressure and having the game on your shoulders?
LO: I loved it. It was a whole different rush coming in in the ninth inning with the game in your hands. At first, it was kind of shaky, learning how to handle the adrenaline but once I figured out how to control that, it felt natural and it felt like this was what I was meant to do. I could see I could be real successful doing that in the future.
Q: At what point during the season did you get the feeling that something special was happening?
LO: It really didn't set in until towards the end of the season in Triple-A when they told me "you are going to go to the Fall League, you've earned it, you've done a great job." I was surprised at myself at how well I did. It was kind of surreal at the time, you know, having that success at three different levels. I never thought it would happen like that in one season. I thought I would be Double-A for the rest of the season.
Q: Tell us how the cutter makes your other pitchers more effective.
LO: The strange thing is, my cutter for some reason is sometimes harder than my actual four-seam fastball, which, for some reason nobody can explain to me. I was throwing that one or two miles an hour harder than my regular fastball. They will (think they) see a four-seam fastball coming at them with the cutter and then at the last minute it will move enough to get away from the barrel of the bat and in on their hands, they have to respect the fact that I can come in with that or throw the straight one in their too and hopefully lock them up or fool them.
Q: What do you remember about your season in Dayton?
LO: When I was there in '06, with Jay Bruce, B.J. Szymanski, Adam Rosales, it was a lot of fun playing there. The crowd and the atmosphere...you can't beat it. Great ballpark. The fans are awesome. Always packed, always cheering. I am glad I got that experience.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.