Janish gets first shot at shortstop

Published 3:05 am Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Associated Press

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Paul Janish knows his position. His strong showing during the Cincinnati Reds’ championship season finally earned him the job as the starting shortstop.

Well, maybe.

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The 28-year-old opened spring training as a starter for the first time in his career, taking in the moment while taking nothing for granted. All he has to do is look to his right in the clubhouse to see there’s an MVP backup at the same position.

Janish will share time with Edgar Renteria, the World Series MVP who signed on to be a complementary player but could quickly become more if Janish struggles.

“I spent the majority of the offseason pretty fired up about the prospect of having this opportunity,” Janish said. “Obviously, we have Edgar. But it looks like I’m probably going to get the opportunity to play the majority of the time. It’s a huge opportunity for my career.”

One that’s eluded him once already.

Janish played his first full season in the majors in 2009, impressing with his defense but batting only .211. He became the starting shortstop for the last two months after Alex Gonzalez was traded to Boston.

The Reds signed Orlando Cabrera as their shortstop in the offseason, leaving Janish in the backup role again. Janish started 27 games from Aug. 3 to Sept. 3 after Cabrera got hurt, helping Cincinnati pull ahead in the NL Central. He batted .260 overall with five homers and 25 RBIs, showing signs of improvement at the plate.

After a first-round playoff loss to the Phillies, Cincinnati declined to exercise Cabrera’s option for 2011, leaving Janish as the starter.

Sort of.

Still needing another shortstop, they signed Renteria to a one-year, $2.1 million deal last month. He became a free agent after the Giants declined his $9.5 million option, leaving the World Series MVP looking for a job.

“It’s kind of hard,” Renteria said. “That’s kind of the job. Everybody’s got to be ready for the situation.”

Renteria played for Jocketty for six years in St. Louis. When Jocketty decided to give the 35-year-old shortstop a contract, he called Janish to reassure him that Renteria would be the backup and fill in at other positions.

Suddenly, that starting job seemed less secure.

“He touched bases with me, saying not to get too worried about it,” Janish said. “It’s a situation where I’ll probably still get to do maybe the majority, which is good. It was reassuring for me but at the same time, that stuff’s going to work itself out.

“I’m pretty fired up about the opportunity, obviously. But I’m still looking at it as I’ve got to play well in camp and earn the job. I’m not taking anything for granted.”

Good approach. Lately, shortstops haven’t lasted long in Cincinnati. Eighteen shortstops have partnered with second baseman Brandon Phillips, who is entering his sixth season in Cincinnati: Cabrera; Janish; Gonzalez; Miguel Cairo; Drew Sutton; Chris Valaika; Jerry Hairston; Adam Rosales; Jolbert Cabrera; Juan Castro; Jeff Keppinger; Danny Richar; Enrique Cruz; Pedro Lopez; Rich Aurilia; Royce Clayton; Felipe Lopez and Ray Olmedo.

Renteria will make 19 when he shows up at the influx infield spot.

“I took ground balls at second base last year, just in case,” Renteria said. “But you guys know my position is shortstop. I’ll be able to play whatever they (want) me to play. I’m going to try.”