GOODYEAR, AZ. — Once the Cincinnati Reds acquired outfielder Marlon Byrd on New Year’s Eve, manager Bryan Price rubbed his hands together and said, “Now we can have a guy capable of driving in 80 runs batting seventh.”
That doesn’t mean Byrd will bat seventh. It just means that Price believes whomever he puts in that spot will be capable of driving in 80 — whether it is Byrd or Brandon Phillips or Jay Bruce or Devin Mesoraco.
Price has an idea of how his batting order will look, as least in his mind and in his dreams, but he isn’t saying what it is, not until the team gets through spring exhibition games and survives without injuries.
HE WILL TINKER during the exhibition games that start Tuesday and said he probably won’t settle into a desired batting order until toward the end of the exhibition season.
“I have an idea already of what I want to do,” he said. “It will be at the back end of spring training when the regulars are playing every day that we’ll have to solidify our line-up for the season. We have to play and make sure we’re healthy before I talk about Opening Day.”
And about a guy driving in 80 runs batting seventh? Might that be somebody who has never batted that low in the order?
“Yeah, these guys are sensitive and everybody wants to feel like the spot where they hit in the order is appreciated,” said Price. “Unfortunately for some it isn’t until their careers are over that they understand how important it was to hit second or seventh or eighth — how challenging it is and the significant responsibilities there are in those spots.
“GREAT TEAMS ARE able to create runs in the bottom third of the order,” Price added. “We can’t have throw-away innings because seven-eight-nine are coming up.”
The only early givens are that Billy Hamilton will bat leadoff and Zack Cozart will bat eighth and Price believes the lower third won’t provide throw-away innings because of who bats seventh, “And in large part because I believe Zack Cozart is going to have a real bounce back year. We should have a dynamic offensive player batting seventh.
“If we have concerns over who is hitting seventh and worry if they are going to have some hurt feelings, then we don’t really have the pieces here that we want,” said Price. “We want guys who accept their roles and buy into it and do what they can to give us the best chance to win.”
THE HAL McCOY LINEUP: Billy Hamilton, Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, Devin Mesoraco, Todd Frazier, Marlon Byrd, Brandon Phillips, Zack Cozart.
By batting Bruce behind Hamilton and ahead of Votto, he is certain to get a lot of fastballs and a lot of good pitches to hit. And batting Phillips seventh gives the Reds that potential of 80 RBI in that spot in the order.
THE LEAST TALKED about and quietest canidate for one of the available rotation spots is 32-year Paul Maholm, a lefthander with nine years in the majors and a first-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2003.
“He fits in beautifully at the moment,” said Price. “He looks great in his bullpens and live batting practices. He has the experience factor and played on some good teams in Atlanta and in Los Angeles. We have a need for starting pitchers.
“We have a question mark about if Homer Bailey is going to be ready and we have question marks in our No. 4 and No. 5 spots,” Price added. “I’m confident that the two Anthonys (Tony Cingrani, Anthony DeSclafani) can do that job and do it well. But we need depth and Paul is right in the middle of it, as is Jason Marquis.
“If the scenario is that Homer can’t go right away, we’d have Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake and two spots potentially filled by young pitchers in Cingrani and DeSclafani. To me that suggests a veteran guy like Maholm or Marquis in that other spot would be fairly important — a guy who knows how to manage a game, has pitched in the league and has been successful.”
CUBAN DEFECTOR Raisel Iglesias is dazzling from the wind-up, but he is trying to fine-tune his delivery from the stretch.
“The only area I’ve seen him struggle so far is from th stretch and he is trying to modify his delivery from the stretch so he can be quick and efficient,” said Price. “He is in a gray area right now, but he’ll settle in nicely by the time we get into a few exhibition games.”
AT ONE TIME Daniel Corcino was the darling of the minor-league pitching prospects, three or four years ago. But his progress has been slow and he has struggled. The Reds have tried him as a starter and as a relief pitcher, trying to find his niche.
In fact, when he was up with the Reds last year, he did both — three starts, two relief appearances, 0-and-1, 4.34 earned run average.
“Where he lands and what he does depends on what he does with the opportunities that he has,” said Price. “He came up and did a nice job for us last year with some spot starts and nice relief work. There is no doubt he needs to work hard on repeating his delivery and executing quality pitches.
“There is no question he has the stuff, a fastball/slider combination with a good change-up,” Price added. “That’s the best I’ve seen him pitch (last season) since I saw him in winter ball in 2011. He hasn’t had great big league camps with us.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “You can’t mess up spring training too bad, can you? Well, we did it last year with all the injuries (Mat Latos, Aroldis Chapman, Skip Schumaker, Devin Mesoraco).” — Manager Bryan Price.