Over the Dayton Dragons' 13 seasons in the Midwest League, two pitchers have enjoyed seasons in which they notched at least 12 wins and posted an earned run average under 3.00. The first occurred in 2006 when Carlos Fisher went 12-5 for the Dragons with a 2.76 ERA. It happened again in 2011 when Josh Smith was 14-7 with a 2.97 ERA. Smith hopes to someday join the list of Dragons players in the Major Leagues. Fisher reached the big leagues in 2009 when he became the 32nd Dragons player to become a Major Leaguer.
Carlos Fisher joined the Reds organization in 2005. A native of the Los Angeles suburb of Duarte, California, he played at NAIA powerhouse Lewis-Clark State College in Idaho, a school that has produced 14 big league players including relief pitcher Frank Williams, who spent the 1988 season with the Reds. Lewis-Clark has also won 16 NAIA College World Series titles and the team reached the CWS both years that Fisher played there. He was drafted by the Reds in the 11th round in 2005.
Fisher opened his professional career with the Billings Mustangs in 2005. He allowed just one earned run over his first four outings covering 18 innings to win Pioneer League Pitcher of the Week in his first week of pro ball. He finished the year with a record of 4-4 with a 4.19 ERA.
Fisher earned a spot in the Dragons starting rotation in spring training, 2006. He started the second game of the season after Travis Wood got the opening night assignment and was followed in the rotation by Philippe Valiquette, Zach Ward, and Johnny Cueto. The unit evolved into one of the strongest and deepest rotations in Dragons history. Wood went 10-5 over a full season in Dayton. Cueto was 8-1 when he was promoted at the end of June. Ward was 7-0 at the end of July when he was traded to Minnesota in a one-for-one deal for Major League pitcher Kyle Lohse. Valiquette, at age 19, was the only member of the rotation who struggled. Valiquette, who eventually reached the Triple-A level, was replaced in the rotation by Robert Manuel, who, like Fisher, Wood, and Cueto, would go on to become a Major Leaguer.
The Dayton batting order that season featured blue chip prospect Jay Bruce and three other future Major League players in shortstop Paul Janish, infielder Adam Rosales, and catcher Craig Tatum.
Fisher struggled in his first two starts with the Dragons, allowing nine runs in nine and one-third innings. But his next four starts were all scoreless outings as he lowered his earned run average from 8.68 to 2.53. On April 23 against Kane County at Fifth Third Field, Fisher tossed six and one-third shutout innings, allowing just three hits with one walk and nine strikeouts in a dominant performance. The Dragons won the game 2-1, keyed by a seventh inning homer by big Bobby Mosby.
Fisher enjoyed his best start of the year at home against West Michigan on June 12, a 1-0 Dragons victory. Fisher struck out 10 over seven shutout innings, allowing just three hits and one walk. He finished the first half with a 6-3 record and a 2.93 ERA. His second half with the Dragons was much like the first. He allowed no runs in four of his 14 starts and gave up only one run in three others. He enjoyed an excellent finish to the season, going 4-0 with a 1.73 ERA in six August starts to earn Reds Minor League Pitcher of the Month. One interesting statistic told the story of how Fisher was able to handle adversity in 2006. In key game situations when pitching with two outs and men in scoring position, he allowed just nine hits over the entire season. Opposing batters hit .164 against Fisher in those clutch situations.
Fisher spent most of 2007 with the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts. In 2008, he was moved to the bullpen and enjoyed success with both Chattanooga and Triple-A Louisville to earn a spot on the Reds 40-man roster.
After opening the 2009 season back in Louisville, Fisher was promoted to the Reds on May 22. He made his big league debut two days later against the Indians, working a scoreless top of the 11th inning. When Alex Gonzalez delivered a game-winning RBI double in the bottom of the 11th, Fisher had a victory. He became the first Reds pitcher to earn a win in his big league debut in 15 years. Fisher finished the season with a 1-1 record and a 4.47 ERA in 39 relief appearances with the Reds.
Fisher split the 2010 season between Cincinnati and Louisville and did the same in 2011. On May 25, 2011, Fisher gave the Reds one of their most courageous pitching performances of the year. He entered the game against the Phillies in the bottom of the 14th inning with the score tied 4-4. As the Reds last available reliever, he worked one scoreless inning after another. Despite not having pitched more than two innings in a game all year, Fisher tossed five shutout frames before giving up a single run with two outs in the 19th inning as the Phillies won, 5-4. Fisher suffered the loss but gave his team chances to win in an impossible situation. Ironically, the game featured one of baseball's biggest oddities of 2011. Phillies infielder Wilson Valdez, who was forced into emergency action on the mound, became the first Major League position player to start a game in the field and then earn the win as a pitcher since Babe Ruth in 1921. Valdez, of course, played for the Reds in 2012.
Fisher spent all of 2012 in Triple-A with Louisville and became a free agent at the end of the season, leaving the Reds organization for the first time in his career. To date, the 30-year-old right-hander is unsigned but his value as a proven Triple-A hurler who can provide big league insurance is certain to earn him a spot somewhere when camps open in about two weeks.
Fisher has appeared in 74 Major League games, going 2-5 with a 4.74 ERA. He has pitched in 249 Minor League games, going 38-28 with a 3.36 ERA. Fisher, who enjoyed one of the finest seasons in Dragons history in 2006, was the 32nd Dragons player to reach the Major Leagues.
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Click Here for Carlos Fisher's Minor League statistics.