Brian O’Grady strode to the plate in the ninth inning Friday against Idaho Falls representing the tying run in a 6-4 game. Two innings earlier O’Grady launched a pinch-hit solo home run deep over the right field wall.
The 3,143 in attendance at Dehler Park could sense more heroics. But O’Grady flew out to the warning track in right for the final out, and Idaho Falls had completed a four-game sweep.
“It just got in on me a little bit, just a hair,” the left-handed-hitting O’Grady said. “Sometimes you can’t always put a perfect swing on a ball.”
There haven’t been too many instances when O’Grady hasn’t delivered for the Mustangs. And he’s been asked to do it from multiple roles, be it in the outfield, at first base, at third base, as the designated hitter … wherever he’s needed.
Entering Sunday, O’Grady has appeared in six games at first base, three games at third, four games in center field and three games in right. He’s been the DH four times.
Furthermore, O’Grady has hit third in the batting order nine times, led off three times, batted fifth three times, sixth twice, fourth once and ninth once. Through it all his numbers remain solid: In his first 20 games O’Grady was hitting .286 (18 for 63) with two homers and 13 RBIs and an on-base percentage of .418.
You get the sense the Mustangs and their parent club, the Cincinnati Reds, are still trying to figure out where O’Grady belongs.
“That’s exactly it,” manager Dick Schofield said. “When you hit, you always find a place for somebody. It’s just kind of the way it is. He was on fire there for awhile. So we’ll see. You have to kind of juggle the guys around. We’ll figure it out eventually.”
“It keeps things interesting,” said O’Grady, who acknowledged his preference for playing in the outfield. “Every day I’m working at a different position. When it comes to where I’m at in the order, I don’t really change my approach. I just try to hit line drives and sometimes I get into them.”
O’Grady played primarily in the outfield in his first three seasons at Rutgers University, but spent 51 games at first base as a senior this past spring. He was drafted by the Reds in the eighth round in June.
With first baseman Kevin Franklin and third baseman Taylor Sparks — both second-round draft picks — now locked into the corner infield positions in Billings, O’Grady is likely to play more in the outfield. But it’s been dizzying so far.
O’Grady, a Westminster, Pa., native, shares a bond with Reds all-star third baseman Todd Frazier, who was a first-round draft pick out of Rutgers in 2007. Frazier hit .319 in 41 games in Billings that summer.
When O’Grady joined the Reds system, Frazier reached out to him.
“The day I got drafted he tweeted at me right away,” O’Grady said. “I’ve met him before. He’s a down-to-earth, good guy. He’s a goofball. It’s pretty cool that he’s (in the majors) from Rutgers, and in the All-Star Game and the Home Run Derby now. Maybe that can help me a little bit.”
The best asset O’Grady’s shown so far is his patience and composure in the batter’s box. O’Grady owns the rare and impressive distinction of having more walks thank strikeouts. He walked three more times against Ogden on Saturday.
“Getting into good hitters’ counts is when you can have the best success,” he said. “My whole life I’ve had a good idea of the strike zone and I’ve never been one to chase pitches. I feel confident that if I swing at pitches in the strike zone I’ll be able to hit them well.”