Janish prepared to step into a starting role

Janish prepared to step into a starting role

Janish prepared to step into a starting role
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Roster depth has been a friend to Paul Janish in the past. He's not about to make it a foe as he goes through his first Spring Training projected as the starting shortstop for the Reds.

When the team signed veteran Edgar Renteria this winter to provide depth -- and, sure, some healthy competition -- at the key infield spot, Reds general manager Walt Jocketty and manager Dusty Baker made certain Janish knew he was still going to be given the majority of the time at shortstop this spring and, performance willing, into the season.

That came as some comfort, but Janish knows from experience that he won't be a lone ranger at shortstop with the Reds.

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As Baker put it Sunday, he believes a club needs "two bona fide shortstops" to be successful, and that's what the Reds have had, particularly the last two years, with Janish supporting veterans Alex Gonzalez and Orlando Cabrera.

Depth is a good thing, Janish knows.

"In all honesty, that's what's gotten me the 2 1/2 years in the big leagues I've gotten already," Janish said. "Dusty's always been adamant of that, and the last couple of years I think I've assumed the role I've been in pretty well."

Now headed for the role of primary shortstop, Janish is running with the opportunity this spring. Although he went 0-for-2 in the Reds' loss to the Angels on Sunday, he has hit safely in five of seven games at a .333 clip, and he continues to show off his stellar glovework at short.

The simple fact of the matter is that, at age 35, Renteria isn't the full-time shortstop he once was. And at age 28, and possessing top-flight fielding skills, Janish is in a good position to take on the bulk of the playing time -- albeit with a safety net, and a helping hand.

"Edgar is still a good player, but everything slows down a little bit," Baker said. "Janish has as much range and can play shortstop as well as anybody in this league right now. He can play some shortstop, now."

And that's what the Reds want him to do, more than anything else. He batted .260/.338/.385 with five homers and 25 RBIs last season, so providing offense amid the National League's most potent lineup hasn't been his forte -- and doesn't need to be.

As long as he keeps performing at shortstop in a way that turns the heads of scouts while also impressing the sabermetricians with his range, soft hands and strong arm, Janish is doing what's expected of him.

Halfway through spring, he said Renteria has been there for him as a teammate and fellow shortstop, not as a veteran determined to shut him out on his biggest career opportunity.

"I'm honestly looking at him as a resource more than anything else, because his resume obviously speaks for itself," Janish said of the man who played in the World Series with three clubs (Marlins in 1997, Cardinals in 2004 and Giants in '10), and won the World Series MVP Award with San Francisco.

"Thus far, he's been awesome to me. He's been really open in terms of talking about the game, whether it be hitting, defense, opposing pitchers, whatever the case may be.

"I couldn't ask for much more in terms of his approach and attitude toward everything, and from the way I understand, that's the way he's been his entire career. It's gone as well as it could have thus far, and hopefully we finish the spring healthy and ready to go."

For Janish, the biggest difference this spring is that he's comfortable with his past and his future, so he's been able to focus on doing the work he needs to prepare for the 162-game season -- figuring most of those games he'll be in Baker's lineup at shortstop.

"I've had the opportunity to be in the big leagues now for a couple of years, so I'm not in a situation where I have an overwhelming feeling," he said. "I know what's going on. The only difference, which is a significant difference, is the fact that I'm probably going to get the opportunity to play a lot more.

"In terms of preparation, I'm not really taking any different approach. It's been more of a mental approach, in terms of preparing for the grind."

Indeed, Janish has been around the block a time or two. He might not have the 15 years of experience Renteria has, but he has enough to know what he's up against when the regular season rolls around.

"There's some things to get used to, whether it be playing the Cardinals late in the year in the race, or playing in Wrigley with everybody yelling at you, or playing in Philly, those are things you can't get used to until you go do them," Janish said.

"I think the past couple of years, being in the role that I've had has helped me so far and will help me going forward, there's no doubt about it."

John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.