Hannahan Working to Get Back

MLB veteran Jack Hannahan exploded for four hits for Louisville in a rehab appearance Wednesday. He’s been on the DL since a shoulder surgery last October and now working his way back while the Reds are in need of some reserve action during the injury of a couple of all-star infielders.

Louisville rallied for a game-tying run in the bottom of the eighth inning and the game-winner in the ninth in a 6-5 victory over visiting Columbus. The Bats took an first-inning lead when their first batter, Jason Bourgeios, led with a triple and scored on a groundout by the next hitter. They retook the lead in the fourth when Jack Hannahan plated two with a double and again in the sixth from a Hannahan single that led to an RBI-hit from Rey Navarro. Hannahan was also in the middle of the eighth inning run when he followed a Neftali Soto hit with a single to move him to third where he scored on a wild pitch. Bourgeios then ended the game with a walk-off double in the final frame.

Hannahan led the offensive effort by going 4-4 with two RBI. Bourgeios and Soto also had multi-hit games with two apiece. On the mound David Holmberg got no decision from allowing four runs (two earned ) over seven innings of work. Elvin Ramirez entered in the eighth and finished the game without allowing a run for the win.

The veteran Hannhan’s free agent signing before last season was supposed to shore up the Cincinnati bench, but thus far it could be described as regrettable. He saw action in around half of the Reds game last season and mustered only a .216 average. After that he underwent shoulder surgery which kept him inactive until recently beginning a rehab assignment first at Dayton and now with Louisville. He went 4-12 with the Dragons and Wednesday’s game brought him up to 5-22 with the Bats.

Seeking to provide corner infield depth and a left-handed bat on the bench the Reds inked the now 33 year-old to a two-year deal at $1 million per season with a $4 million team option/$2 million buyout for 2015. Of course at that time hopes were he would not be needed much at first because Joey Votto was coming off a season when he missed 50 games from a knee injury. Votto played in every game last season and Todd Frazier navigated through ups and down during his sophomore campaign to hold onto regular duty at the hot corner.

Wednesday was Hannahan’s tenth rehab appearance and from the appearance of it he is nearing MLB readiness. The circumstances are different this time around because Frazier has established himself as one of the top third basemen in the league now and is coming off appearances in the all-star game and home run derby. Meanwhile Votto is again having some knee problems and Cincinnati has been forced to get by with a mix of players filling in at first including Frazier, reserve catcher Brayan Pena, and right-fielder Jay Bruce.

One problem with Frazier and Bruce playing the position is that the team sacrifices good gloves elsewhere. One of the staples in Cincinnati’s success over the past four years has been stellar defense, but during the current losing streak since the all-star break they’ve been hurt by play in the field below what they’ve become accustomed to enjoying. Hannahan has the reputation for good leather, mostly at third base, and could stabilize that situation while two gold glove Reds infielders are on the DL.

The big question is if he can provide more at the plate. Lifetime he’s never hit for much power and his best offensive season was 2011 with Cleveland when he hit .250 AVG/.331 OBP. Though not eye-popping, that level of performance would be a welcomed relief for the Reds for the time being as they’ve contended with a plethora of injuries throughout the entire season.

It’s an opportunity for Hannahan too. He could see significant action until Votto returns. Also, there’s no heir apparent to that role in the Cincinnati system. Soto gave it a shot earlier this season, but struggled through a 3-30 performance. If Hannahan can take possession of the utility role he might draw some more consideration from the Reds to take advantage of their option for next season. It might not be likely, but if they were faced with that decision today it would be an easy one.

Hannahan has plenty of experience after appearing in almost 600 MLB games with five different teams. He’s not going to make an all-star team, but he’s an established major leaguer working to get into a situation where he can make a significant contribution to a team in need. Currently Kristopher Negron is filling a utility role with the Reds and though he’s surprised with a couple of homers, he was not expected to make the 40-man roster before the beginning of the season. The opportunity is there for the veteran Hannahan to extend his career and he should be showing if he’s able to do that as soon as the Reds feel he’s ready.

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