Janish called up to replace Keppinger

Janish called up to replace Keppinger

CINCINNATI -- A Minor Leaguer's good fortune of getting promoted often comes at a big leaguer's expense.

Shortstop Paul Janish was having a decent game for Triple-A Louisville vs. Scranton-Wilkes Barre Tuesday night when he was suddenly lifted in the eighth inning for a pinch-hitter by manager Rick Sweet.

"He pinch-hit for me and really didn't say much," Janish said. "I was kind of caught off guard and asked what was going on. [Sweet] was pretty adamant and yelled and let everybody hear that I got called up. It worked out OK. He did it with a little flare for sure. It was kind of assumed that something happened to somebody up here. At the same time, I was pretty excited as well."

That somebody was shortstop and top Reds hitter Jeff Keppinger, who suffered a fractured left kneecap against the Marlins during a 5-3 win. Keppinger was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday, which cleared the way for Janish's first stint in the Majors. Keppinger is expected to be out four to six weeks.

Janish, 25, wasn't in manager Dusty Baker's starting lineup on Wednesday. Baker elected to go with veteran Jerry Hairston Jr., at shortstop. Hairston came in batting .316 in 16 games this season, and Baker has decided to pick his spots to use Janish.

"Jerry's been doing a great job offensively, and we've also had trouble offensively," Baker said. "So we have to have some offensive replacement to replace a key offensive guy. I'm not saying Paul can't, but Paul is unproven right now."

In 35 games for Louisville, Janish batted .293 with four home runs and 20 RBIs. The fifth-round pick in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft was also on a seven-game hitting streak. It was a sizable improvement over his 2007 season at Louisville and Double-A Chattanooga, when he batted a combined .235 with four homers and 39 RBIs in 523 at-bats.

"I've just been seeing the ball," Janish said. "I'm a little more comfortable. It's about consistency, really. I've always had stints where I've done well in the past. I think last year kind of snowballed on me and I had a poor year. The offseason cleared my mind a little bit and helped out. I came back and got off to a good start."

Baker saw Janish play in Spring Training and used him at second and third base, only for the purpose of getting him playing time. Shortstop is where Janish will provide the most benefit.

"His glove is never the question," Baker said. "He's a true shortstop, a slick-fielding shortstop."

Janish got to the ballpark at noon Wednesday -- seven hours before game time -- ready to go for Cincinnati.

"I'm fired up," Janish said. "I'm pretty antsy. I didn't get much sleep last night. I drove up this morning from Louisville. It worked out pretty well. I had my mom [Debbie] with me. She was in town in Louisville coincidentally. She drove up with me and got to walk through the clubhouse. I think she was pretty fired up. She enjoyed it as well."

Keppinger's injury, and Janish's break, came just as the 28-year-old veteran's career was taking off following several fledgling years where he often didn't get opportunities.

"Thanks for reminding me," a subdued Keppinger said in the clubhouse while standing on crutches after returning from an MRI exam. "I had a long talk with [Ken] Griffey last night while on the training table. He calmed me down a lot. I was struggling a little bit. He talked to me, told me to take it easy and relax. Everything will take care of itself."

Filling in for Alex Gonzalez, who has missed all season thus far with his own left knee compression fracture, Keppinger batted .324 with three homers and a team-leading 21 RBIs.

Keppinger fouled a pitch hard off of his left leg in the second inning, but not knowing the extent of the injury, he continued in the game for two more innings. A Mark Hendrickson lined single in the third off his glove convinced Keppinger to come out. He was replaced by a pinch-hitter in the fourth.

"I couldn't move," Keppinger said. "I was going to try and sidestep, but I had to just take it right on and try to pick it. Right then I knew when he got on first base that there was no way I'd be able to get to second base and turn a double play, and if I had to on a close play, jump out of the way. So I figured I might as well get out of there and put somebody in there that can do it."

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