GOODYEAR, AZ — There is nothing more boring to watch than the early days of spring training when only the pitchers and catchers are working out.
The pitchers throw in the bullpen and then do PFP, pitchers fielding practice. They field bunts and throw to first base. They make pitches and run to cover first base. It is boring but necessary.
It is like watching somebody shovel snow in Boston.
AND SOME FANS actually show up to watch it. It’s free, after all, and those are major league players participating.
A few stood under the cloudy skies and a pleasant 73 degrees Thursday afternoon watching the first workout of the Cincinnati Reds.
COACHES BILLY HATCHER and Jim Riggleman conducted PFP with Johnny Cueto, Aroldis Chapman, J.J. Hoover, Sam LeCure and Sean Marshall. Marshall, though, the left handed relief pitcher, was prohibited from throwing the baseball to first base after fielding it.
Marshall missed most of last season with shoulder miseries and was on the disabled list twice, appearing in only 15 games.
And they are holding him back this spring.
“Marshall is having a slow progression,” said manager Bryan Price. “I don’t know where he is as to being able to start the season. We’ve slowed down his throwing to make sure everything is OK.”
And it is another reason general manager Walt Jocketty brought in relief pitchers Burke Badenhop and Kevin Gregg in an attempt to bolster a bullpen that was battered and beaten last season.
Badenhop is from Perrysburg, OH., near Toledo and also the home of former major league manager Jim Leyland. He also attended Bowling Green State University, which also produced major league pitchers Roger McDowell and Orel Hershiser.
Badenhop, 25, is pitching for his fifth major league team (Florida, Tampa Bay, Milwaukee, Boston). He was 0-and-3 with the Red Sox last year, but had a 2.29 ERA over 70 appearances that covered 70 2.3 innings.
IN ADDITION, starter Homer Bailey is being held back. He made only 23 starts last year, none after August 7, because of a torn flexor tendon that required surgery on September 5.
“Homer is a little ways away from being able to throw off a mound,” said Price. “But at this point in time that doesn’t mean he won’t be able to be ready for Opening Day. He is throwing the ball good. He is throwing at 200 feet with no setbacks.”
PRICE KNOWS THAT spring training, especially before the exhibition games begin, can be drudgery.
“You don’t want spring training to become a stagnant environment, which is virtually impossible,” he said. “We’ll do some different drills, spending more time inside talking situational baseball. We did some last year but we plan on increasing that. We have areas we need to focus on to get better, but we will focus on every area of the game.”
FANS AND WRITERS keep asking about the possibility of Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco playing some first base this year but manager Bryan Price says it isn’t likely to happen, for two reasons. One is that he hopes Joey Votto will play there nearly every day. Two is that Price wants Mesoraco to catch between 135 and 140 games.
Fans like to believe that Johnny Bench was an ‘iron man’ behind the plate for The Big Red Machine and his backups never played. Not true. In actuality, Bench never started more than 125 games behind the plate in any one season. He did play some first base, third base, left field and in one game he actually played center field.
Good friend William Lawrence of Villa Hills, Ky., also known as Banker Bill, attended the game that Bench played center field.
It was May 17, 1970 in old Crosley Field. It was a Sunday, when they played doubleheaders on Sunday. Bench played center field in the first game because manager Sparky Anderson wanted his bat in the lineup and Bench caught the second game.
Why does Banker Bill remember this? Because he was there, “And on that day Hank Aaron collected his 3,000th hit,” said Banker Bill. It was off Wayne Simpson and guess who field the base hit? Right. Johnny Bench in center field.
KIM NUXHALL, son of former Reds pitcher/broadcaster/icon Joe Nuxhall, reminded me of what happened 71 years ago Wednesday — February 18, 1944. It was the day Joe Nuxhall, age 15, signed a contract with the Reds, enabling him to become the youngest player ever to appear in a major league game.
Kim said his dad received a $500 signing bonus and $175 a month. That’s laughable these days, but remember it was 1944 when the average salary was $2,600 a year, minimum wage was 30 cents an hour, a loaf of bread was nine cents, a gallon of gas was 21 cents and a gallon of milk was 62 cents.
Said Kim: “From that day forward, Joe spent the remainder of his life giving back. He never said no to an autograph, rarely said no to speaking engagements, always said yes when asked if the Reds would win each year. He always cried because he knew how fortunate he was.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I’d like to catch 161 games and take the last game of the regular season off after we clinch a playoff spot.” — catcher Devin Mesoraco.