February 15, 2013 - Midwest League (MWL) - Dayton Dragons
Dayton Dragons fans from 2011 remember that one of the keys to the team's run to a franchise record 83 victories was the mid-season arrival of the smallest player in Dragons history. At 5'7", 145 lbs., sparkplug second baseman Ronald Torreyes had an influence more like Paul Bunyan. Torreyes was hitting .406 as late as July 29 and finished at .356 as the team went 48-22 in the second half.
Who was the tallest player in Dragons history? Based on roster sizes, the answer is 6'8" pitcher Logan Ondrusek, a member of the 2006 Dragons who went on to become the 40th Dragons player to reach the big leagues. Ondrusek has averaged 63 appearances per year out of the Reds bullpen over the last three seasons, the highest total on the club.
Logan Ondrusek is a native of Shiner, Texas who played at McLennan Community College, the same school that produced longtime Mariners star Jay Buhner. Ondrusek was drafted by the Reds in the 13th round in 2005 and assigned to Billings, where his professional career got off to a rough start. Ondrusek went 1-6 with a 6.02 earned run average for the Mustangs that summer, allowing 49 runs in 55 innings.
He showed considerable improvement with the Dragons the next season, 2006. He began the year in extended spring training before arriving in Dayton in mid-May. From his first outing, he pitched much more effectively than his numbers from the previous season would have indicated. In his third game with the club, he followed Carlos Fisher to the mound of a 1-1 game to start the eighth inning. Ondrusek fired three perfect innings. Nine batters up, nine down, five strikeouts. When Dayton's Habelito Hernandez, who would go on to play more games for the Dragons than any other player in club history, delivered a tie-breaking RBI double in the 11th inning, Ondrusek had his first victory.
Ondrusek was particularly good at home that season for the Dragons. He allowed just three runs at Fifth Third Field in 11 relief appearances, posting a home ERA of 1.40. Right-handed batters hit just .189 for the year against Ondrusek as he began to show the ability to pitch at higher levels of the system. Left-handers were a problem at the time for Ondrusek. They hit .321 against him that season, and would continue to give him trouble over the next two years. It was Ondrusek's ability to develop a pitch that would be effective against lefty hitters in 2009 that carried him all the way to the Major Leagues. His final numbers in Dayton included a record of 4-5 with a 3.42 ERA in 27 relief appearances.
Ondrusek spent 2007 at Sarasota, pitching mostly as a starter. He went 7-10 with a 4.43 ERA. He returned to Sarasota in 2008, going 1-7 with a 4.97 ERA, again struggling mightily against left-handers, who hit .391 against him while right-handed hitters batted just .211.
The 2009 season was Ondrusek's breakout year. Perfecting a cutter that he learned from Sarasota pitching coach Tom Brown, he now had a pitch that would keep left-handed batters honest. After 13 dominant outings at Sarasota, he moved up to Double-A Carolina and was also outstanding there, with the Mudcats. He then jumped all the way to Triple-A with Louisville and provided more of the same. By season's end, Ondrusek had appeared in 56 games out of the bullpen at three different levels. His combined record was 5-1 with a 1.50 ERA and 19 saves. Opponents hit just .178 against him, and tellingly, left-handers hit only .208, a huge improvement. At the end of the season, the Reds promoted Ondrusek to their 40-man roster.
Ondrusek, who had never been listed among the Reds top 30 prospects by Baseball America, was now ranked #14 in the organization, drawing strong praise from the publication.
"No Reds pitcher made a bigger leap in 2009 than Ondrusek, who went from being a starting pitcher fighting for a minor league roster spot to a reliever on the cusp of a big league job."
Ondrusek made the Reds roster out of spring training in 2010. In six of his first nine appearances, he held the opposition scoreless, but in the other three games, he was hit hard. The result was an 11.25 ERA and a trip back to Louisville for more seasoning. Six weeks later, he returned to the Reds and was outstanding over the remainder of the year. He posted a fine 2.49 ERA after his return and finished the season with solid numbers. As a big league rookie, he went 5-0 with a 3.68 ERA in 60 games. He also threw two scoreless innings for the Reds in the playoffs against the Phillies.
In 2011, Ondrusek won his first two decisions to break the Reds club record for most consecutive victories by a right-hander to start a career (7). Over his first 49 games of the season, Ondrusek's ERA was a sparkling 1.53. A strained forearm that likely played a part in some rough outings late in the season drove his final ERA to 3.23 to go along with a record of 5-5.
The 2012 season was another good one for Ondrusek. He did not allow a run until May 17, posting the third longest scoreless streak to start the year in all of baseball. Overall, in 63 games out of the bullpen, he went 5-2 with a 3.46 ERA and his first two big league saves. Aside from one poor outing, Ondrusek's full-season ERA would have stood at a highly-impressive 2.68.
Ondrusek has now appeared in 189 Major League games, the exact same number of games he appeared in over his Minor League career. His big league record is 15-7 with a 3.45 ERA that would be even better if not for some brief, rough stretches that have to be maddening for Ondrusek. Ironically, while the progression of his individual seasons have featured some inconsistency, his career numbers overall have been very consistent. In all three years as a Major Leaguer, he has appeared in at least 60 games but not more than 66. He has won exactly five games every year, and his ERAs look very similar: 3.68; 3.23; 3.46. He is 28 years old and should have many more years of big league duty in his future. Presently settled in as a sixth or seventh inning man out of the bullpen, Ondrusek could take on a greater role if he can showed just modest improvement. He stands as the 40th former Dragon to play big league baseball. Next up: Chris Heisey.