Posted: 4:51 pm Tuesday, April 24th, 2018
By Staff Writer
CINCINNATI — One of the most often asked question by fans: “What is it like in the clubhouse when a team is 4-and-18 and 9 1/2 games out of first place less than a month into the season?”
The assumption is that it is funeral parlor quiet, with players sitting around their lockers with their head hanging as they wring their hands and chew their fingernails to the quick.
Not true. The atmosphere and dynamics is much the same as if the Cincinnati Reds were 18-and-4 instead of 4-and-18.
Even the media is sometimes fooled. On Tuesday afternoon, when the media entered the clubhouse they heard, “Whack, whack, whack.” Catcher Tucker Barnhart was sitting at his locker pounding a black catcher’s glove on the floor with a black bat. “Whack, whack, whack.”
“Who are you mad at? Are you taking out some frustrations?” Barnhart was asked.
Actually, all he was doing was preparing a new mitt, loosening the stiff leather by pounding it over and over with a bat.
“I usually do this during spring training,” he said. “And that’s what I did this spring with the glove I’m using. By the time this season began it was ready.”
Barnhart said his gloves generally last two seasons, but he keeps one ready in reserve and breaks in another one. “Whack, whack, whack.”
Somebody said, “Don’t miss and hit your ankle.” Said Barnhart, “Hey, I was pounding on an anvil last winter at an Indianapolis Colts game, so I can handle this.”
PITCHER HOMER BAILEY was sitting at his cubicle, flipping a baseball up-and-down out of his palm. As the senior member on the Reds roster, one making $105 million, Bailey catches a lot of grief from fans for the poor return on the team’s investment. They conveniently overlook the fact he hasn’t been able to pitch much since he signed the contract due to a litany of injuries that necessitated three surgeries. That is neither the fault of the team nor the fault of Bailey.
He has pitched soundly this season, but is 0-and-3 with a 3.63 earned run average. That’s mostly due to no offensive support. Bailey is next-to-last in the National League in run support.
Asked if what is happening around him tests his sanity, Bailey laughed and said, “I don’t know that I ever had sanity. Best thing you can do is come in every day and prepare for my next start. And that’s all I can do. Everything else is out of my control.
“Obviously there have been some changes (the firing of manager Bryan Price and pitching coach Mack Jenkins) and the opinions on those changes are not going to change. The best thing to do is try to control what you can control. What is happening here is sad, very sad. You just look for positives,” said Bailey.
Bailey is not pleased with a 0-and-3 record but says, “From a personal standpoint, I don’t think I’ve ever had this good of a start to a year. And I’m going to get better. I have made some mistakes I don’t like.”
SITTING TWO CHAIRS down from Bailey was pitcher Sal Romano, the winner in Monday night’s 10-4 romp over the Atlanta Braves. Romano, though, risked the game and a few starts in the sixth inning.
Atlanta’s Ozzie Albies shot one right at Romano. Reflexively, he stuck out his pitching hand and grabbed it, then tossed out Albies.
Asked if he knows pitchers are not supposed to stop line drives with their pitching hand, Romano said, “I know. I know. It didn’t hurt or sting when I did it, but it hurts more today. It’s fine, though. Most of the time you don’t stop them, but that time it got to me with perfect timing.”
Manager Jim Riggleman acknowledged that pitchers are discouraged from sticking out their fragile and expensive pitching hands to stop screaming baseballs.
“We literally talk about that in spring training,” he said. “With the way shifts are right now, quite often if you let that ball go through a middle infielder will catch it. It’s competiveness, it’s instinct and they do that. What hurts a lot of times is when they don’t catch it and the ball filters off into no man’s land and you don’t get anybody out.”
EUGENIO SUAREZ’S locker was empty because he is at Class AAA Louisville, starting a rehab after fracturing his thumb April 9. It was thought he would miss four to six weeks, but just a couple weeks after the mishap he thinks he is ready.
“He is such a baseball rat, he is one of those guys who works his tail off,” said Riggleman. “He feels like he is real close and he’ll have something to say about when he is ready.
“You usually say a player on rehab will go down for ’x’ number of days, but in his case, once he sees some pitches and he is feeling good, we’ll see him real soon. He needs to see some live pitching, but not a lot.”
JOSE PERAZA is no Zack Cozart, the shortstop who departed the Reds via free agency, but Peraza appears to be making big strides on defense. He has made only one error this season and his work ethic is off the charts.
“He is playing good and is an extremely hard worker,” said Riggleman. “Sometimes Freddie Benavides (infield coach) has to tone him back because he takes a lot of ground balls and throws a lot. The work that he has done has really helped him, but Freddie knows he has to hold him back a little bit because it is a long season.”
Everybody knows that shortstop is a premier position on the baseball field, a position usually played by a superstar.
“All of us who have watched him feel that Jose is a good shortstop,” said Riggleman. “It is the one position that is graded against excellence. We think of shortstops it is Ozzie Smith, Omar Vizquel, Barry Larkin, Dave Concepcion. There is such excellence there that it is almost like if somebody’s calls somebody an average shortstop it is an insult. That’s pretty good if you are an average major league shortstop. There is no such thing as a below average shortstop.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY
Manager Jim Riggleman, asked if Monday’s 10-4 win might provide some momentum: “Momentum is only as good as your next day’s pitcher.”