GOODYEAR, AZ. — Not many things unfolded on the plus side for the Cincinnati Reds last season, but one thing that invariably went right was the team’s defensive play.
And yet when they passed out Gold Gloves, when they were finished all the Reds stood with empty hands, no trophy in place.
Shortstop Zack Cozart, second baseman Brandon Phillips and center fielder Billy Hamilton played their positions as well as those positions can be played but didn’t receive the accolades.
“I felt like somebody would have had to have had a monster season to outperform Zack defensively,” said manager Bryan Price. “I didn’t think that was possible and I thought he was the Gold Glove shortstop.
“Brandon Phillips was killed by the six weeks he missed,” said Price. “Brandon is the elite second baseman in the league and there isn’t any question about that. He just missed too many games.
“I HAD TODD FRAZIER going back and forth between third base and first base and that hurt him because he has a chance to be a Gold Glove third baseman,” Price added. “And Billy Hamilton had a terrific year in center field. There was some outstanding defensive play on our club and it was unfortunate it did not get acknowledged.”
For sure it hurt that the team finished fourth and won only 76 games and the voters (managers and coaches) had to wonder how much outstanding defensive play by the Reds contributed to any success.
EUGENIO SUAREZ, acquired from the Detroit Tigers in the Alfredo Simon trade, is not in competition to take Zack Cozart’s job away at shortstop.
“I like Zack Cozart as our shortstop,” said Price. “What we did in the trade is to get the two best players we could get, regardless of position. I’d like Eugenio to play every day. We didn’t trade for him to be a utility infielder. There is no Cozart-Suarez competition.
“I really enjoy watching Zack go about his business because he practices hard, winning is important to him, his contributions are important and he just plays for all the right reasons,” said Price.
PRICE INVARIABLY BRINGS Nick Travieso when he talks about pitchers in camp who have impressed. Travieso, 21, was the team’s No. 1 draft pick in 2012 and spent the last two years at Class A Dayton. He was 7-4 in 2013 and 14-5 last year.
“It impressed me that he repeated the Midwest League and he was a force the past year,” said Price. “He has grown into his body (6-1, 236) and he is more physical. His velocity got better during the course of the year instead of regressing in the second half, which isn’t uncommon with young pitchers.
“His velocity increased on his slider and his pitch quality was much improved,” Price added. “We get reports every day during the season on our minor leaguers but when you see them perform it leaves more of an impression than just a group of statistics. And he is a yes-sir, no-sir guy.”
PRICE WAS ASKED how important it is for Brandon Phllips to rebound offensively in order for the team to win. Phillips hit only .266 with eight home runs and 51 RBI last season after hitting 18 homers and driving in 103 in 2013.
“For us to be successful we have to have contributions from our entire roster,” said Price. “I’m not turning up the heat on Brandon or anybody else. Brandon drove in 103 runs in 2013 and he played the second half with a significant wrist iigament injury. He never was the same player after he messed up his thumb ligaments last year. He was not the same offensive player, nor did we expect him to be. It is too big of an injury to recover from to be back at 100 per cent.
“I have not lost one bit of confidence or expectations that he won’t have a big year and there is no reason to believe he can’t be a reliable and productive offensive player,” Price added. “With the injuries he had in 2013 and last year it is hard to evaluate his body of work.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY: Asked if the Mat Latos comments about the Reds galvanized the team, Price said, “It created a connectivity among our players. To have Marlon Byrd be vocal about it and being one of our newest players speaks to the fact that we believe in being united. Our guys have said that what Mat said inaccurate, we don’t believe it, and they are circling the wagons.”