Posted: 5:22 pm Monday, April 23rd, 2018
By Staff Writer
CINCINNATI — As a baseball lifer who has been part of many facets of the game, Cincinnati Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman knows the main thing the game feeds you is humble pie.
Just when you feel you have the game in a firm grasp, it turned on you and bites you severely on the posterior.
So while his team’s 3-and-18 start this season is disconcerting, it isn’t something that hasn’t happened before. And it isn’t something that can’t be turned around.
Riggleman reduces it to its lowest common denominator. When asked if coming home Monday for a four-game homestand against Atlanta might be a cure, he said it is all elemental.
“It’s baseball — 60 feet-6 inches, 90 feet. Home or away, you have to play good baseball,” he said. “You have to play better baseball by swinging the bats and pitching better. It’s great to be home, but that isn’t going to solve our problems. We have to play better baseball.”
Riggleman, during a talk to the team, mentioned something he endured and something another great baseball man endured.
“I mentioned that when I managed in Chicago (the Cubs) many years ago we got off to a horrendous start,” he said. “I’ve been through it. And a great baseball man like Buddy Bell (now a Reds adviser) went through it when he managed Kansas City. So I told the players, ‘We’ve been through this and handled it, so you can handle it. The way to handle it is to get out of it. We are going to get out of it. The sooner the better, of course.”
One of the things Riggleman is doing right now is batting Billy Hamilton ninth. It isn’t something he wants to do, but it is necessary until if and when Hamilton snaps out of it a deep slump.
And in the last three games Riggleman has used three different leadoff hitters — Jesse Winker, Jose Peraza and on Monday night it was Scott Schebler.
“I have my opinion and four or five other guys with different opinions talking about that (batting Hamilton ninth),” said Riggleman. “Do we just put him back in the leadoff spot and run with it? Do we leave him down below? Until we’re ready to say, ‘Billy, go get ‘em in that first spot and do what you do,’ I want to leave him down there because I don’t want to put him there today and not tomorrow.
“When we do it (bat him first), we’ll do it for good because I’d really prefer to have Schebler and Winker hitting lower in the RBI spots,” he added. “We eventually want to get him back up there, but I can’t tell you when it will be.”
Riggleman said the best leadoff hitter he ever saw was Vince Coleman of the St. Louis Cardinals. He struggled at leadoff at first and manager Whitey Herzog dropped him in the batting order.
“After a few days, Whitey said, ‘Ah, the hell with that, if he can’t hit first he can’t play.’ That’s not where we are with Billy but our preference is for him to hit first.”
SCHEBLER SAID HE knew batting leadoff was a possibility and said, “It’s something that was talked about. They want Billy in the nine-spot, a second leadoff hitter. I’m comfortable with it and I’m an aggressive hitter and don’t plan to change my approach. I did it once or twice last year. It is rare for me to leadoff, but maybe it becomes a thing. Maybe they want to utilize my speed a little bit. I’ll do anything to be in the lineup.”
Schebler wanted to make it clear that he and the team will miss fired manager Bryan Price and that they know it wasn’t his fault the team started the season 3-and-15.
“Bryan was the first guy to give me a break in the big leagues, so I’ll be forever in debt to him for that,” said Schebler. “He is a great human and everybody who knows him will say that. We all really enjoyed being around him. I’m not sure he got a fair shake. The Dodgers won the National League pennant last year and went 3-and-17 in September.
We didn’t play good play good ball and that’s not his fault, but that’s the way the business is. I wish him the best and I don’t think he’ll be down long. You want a guy like that in your clubhouse.”
ANOTHER BURNING QUESTION about The Riggleman Plan is whether left hander Amir Garrett will remain in the bullpen or move into the starting rotation.
“He is a very talented guy and is healthier than he has been in a while,” said Riggleman. “We’re seeing the real guy now, a special guy since we signed him and convinced him not to play basketball.”
And about his future?
“It is a lot like back in the day,” said Riggleman. “A lot of guys came to the big league and they started in the bullpen. Now they seem to groom guys in the bullpen in the minor leagues.
“This could be a situation where he gets groomed in the big leagues,” Riggleman added. “If the rest of the ballclub works out that he stays in the bullpen, well, he has really taken to it and likes it. But if he could eventually start, that would be a real plus for us.”
Garrett has made eight bullpen appearances over 9 2/3 innings and given up no runs, seven hits, walked one and struck out 11.