The Cincinnati Reds were digging deep into the depth chart on Wednesday afternoon to field a nine player lineup against the first-place Milwaukee Brewers. In addition to missing former All-Stars and Gold Glove winners Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips at first base and second base respectively, they were also without starting shortstop Zack Cosart, who is day-to-day with a sore right hand.
That left them with All-Star Todd Frazier in his usual position at third base and three backups around the horn on the infield. Veteran Ramon Santiago handled shortstop. Skip Schumaker, an outfielder by trade who converted to second base with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2009, returned to the infield. Meanwhile, backup catcher Brayan Pena made only his 20th career start at first base in 475 career games.
Needless to say, the Reds infield defense wasn't nearly as strong as it usually is, but the replacements still managed to make a terrific defensive play.
In the second inning, Milwaukee's Khris Davis hit a grounder deep in the hole at shortstop that Santiago backhanded on a dive. A terrific play under normal circumstances. An even better play considering that Sanitago has spent more time over the past four seasons playing second base than shortstop, which was his original primary position. Also factor in that the ball entered the sunlight just as it approached him, making his concentration all the more impressive.
After making the stop, Santiago popped to his feet and fired across the diamond low and in the dirt, and to Pena's non-glove hand. Pretty much the worst possible spot aside from 10-feet over the first baseman's head, but the backup catcher Pena showed incredible athleticism in diving to make the stop and still keeping his foot on the base.
That wouldn't have been an easy play for Votto or Todd Helton or any other terrific defensive first baseman, but Pena nailed it to complete the out.
It's probably not going to hold up in play of the year discussions. It's just impressive to watch guys either out of position or moving back to an old position show off some skills.
Here's a hat tip to the replacements, even though the Reds ended up falling 5-1 to the Brewers. More importantly, this is a reminder to all that the more positions you know and can play, the more valuable you'll be and the more opportunities you'll get at every level of baseball.
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