On the surface, labeling Pedro Villarreal a “garbage man” is patently unfair. Villarreal, after all, is a professional baseball player with 65.1 innings pitched in the best baseball league in the world. When one considers that a very small amount of pro ball players advance to the major leagues, and that an even smaller amount of those chosen few locate something resembling stability in the bigs, I can proclaim with utmost confidence that in the grand scheme of the entire pro baseball universe, Pedro Villarreal is a good baseball player.

However, Villarreal does have his limitations. For his career, Villarreal’s fastball averages 92.1 mph – which happens to be the exact speed of the average major-league fastball in 2015 — and, other than his slider, Villarreal’s secondary offerings are below ordinary. Heck, when compared to other National League pitchers, Villarreal’s 2015 numbers are just that: ordinary.

Villarreal NL Average
Strikeouts per 9 innings 4.7 7.8
Walks per 9 innings 2.3 2.9
ERA+ 113 101
FIP 4.52 3.88

But you know what, Villarreal has embraced a job that few others would: being the Reds’ Garbage Man. So, consider this column a Vote for Pedro and a pat on the back for embracing a role that is the opposite of glamorous.

Consider the situation Villarreal walked into on Aug. 26: David Holmberg was lit up by the Dodgers like an evergreen conifer on Christmas, giving up seven runs and six hits over 3.2 innings. After Yasiel Puig parked a two-run shot off Holmberg with two outs in the fourth inning, Villarreal entered. He retired Adrian Gonzalez to end the frame, and proceeded to deliver 3.1 innings of scoreless baseball, allowing the Reds to mount a mini-comeback and creep to within 6-3 before falling 7-4.

Or how about after Keyvius Sampson made a mess of things (3.1 innings, nine hits, four runs) on Aug. 19, Villarreal stepped in with 2.2 scoreless frames opposite the Royals, an outing that featured Villarreal’s high-wire escape of a one-out, bases-loaded situation in the fourth inning without surrendering a run.

Then there is the case of Villarreal tossing 4.1 innings of two-hit, no-run ball in the second game of a doubleheader on July 22 vs. the Cubs. A week and a half later on Aug. 2, Villarreal held the Pirates without a hit over three frames.

How about when Villarreal garnered his first career win on June 25 by pitching the final two innings of a 13-inning victory in Pittsburgh? Remember when Villarreal was thrust into a June 15 contest in Detroit after Jon Moscot dislocated his shoulder? Villarreal allowed one hit and an unearned run over 3.1 innings. Vote for Pedro!

Sure, there have been some rough outings for Villarreal, like May 9 in Chicago vs. the White Sox (0.2 innings, four hits, three runs), June 28 against the Mets (2.2 innings, four hits, four runs), and Aug. 29 in Milwaukee (0.2 innings, four hits, two runs).

But in 2015, Villarreal has been an undeniable asset to the Reds — which is especially refreshing when you consider that Villarreal’s spring training was a bit undone after he lost the nail on his right ring finger after getting the finger caught between a bullpen door and bullpen pole. (Villarreal pitched later that day.) Perhaps Villarreal has been hardened by being recalled/sent down to Triple-A Louisville 10 times since March 30 (and on 19 occasions since the start of the 2013 season). In any case, in a second straight lost season for the Reds, Villarreal’s success as the Reds’ Garbage Man is a needed positive story.