GOODYEAR, AZ. — The first thing Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price mentioned Tuesday after his team’s 10-0 spring exhibition opener massacre of the Cleveland Indians was: “The base running was outstanding and we’ve worked hard on being more aggressive on the bases.”
When asked Wednesday morning if aggressiveness on the base paths was a point of emphasis this season, Price acknowledged that it may be the main point of emphasis
And he launched into a graduate school dissertation of what aggressive base running could mean to the 2015 Cincinnati Reds.
“When you lose, you tend to hyper-focus on areas that stand out that need improvement,” said Price. “We’ve been a very good base running team in the past, but when you don’t score a lot of runs you focus on how to take every opportunity.”
AND PRICE SAID the Reds took a few steps backward on the base paths last year rather than taking some forward steps to force the defense to make mistakes.
“We did get away from our aggressiveness on the bases,” he said. “We’re not inundated with a bunch of speed guys, but we need to focus on our secondary leads to force the defense to stop us. We need to make the outfielders come up with the ball and make an accurate throw.”
Price pulled out Pete Rose’s name as a point of emphasis and said, “It is nice that he is an iconic Red and what he did can be a lesson for our players — he always made the outfielders stop him from taking an extra base. That’s a good lesson for playing the game the right way.”
THERE ARE WAYS to work on aggressive base running, but Price said it is mostly awareness by each player — leaving the batter’s box at full throttle, getting good leads, being in motion with the pitches, creating a lot movement to distract the defense.
“It’s not about finding more Billy Hamiltons,” he said. “It is about taking advantage of every opportunity to put pressure on the defense. We don’t want our runners stationary when the pitch enters the hitting zone. We want them to show movement, anticipate action.
“We have great base running coaches here in Billy Hatcher and Lee Tinsley and Eric Davis and Jim Riggleman,” said Price. “Riggleman (who will coach third base) is really outstanding with his base running knowledge and experience.”
Riggleman replaces Steve Smith as third base coach. Smith was probably over-aggressive in sending runners to their home plate deaths. Twenty-five base runners were thrown out at home last season.
“We’ll pay attention to base running not just in games, but at times in pre-game workouts during the season,” said Price. “We’ll make sure we’re familiar with it throughout the season and it won’t be something we talked about in Day One in spring training and then walked away from it and say, ‘Hey guys, go out there and do that.”
RUNNING THE BASES aggressively and correctly creates an atmosphere that Price wants on this year’s team.
“There is a collateral positive effect to watching your teammates be successfully aggressive on the bases,” said Price. “We are not talking about running randomly. We’re talking about being aggressive that reduces risks. It puts us in a better position to take an extra base and permits our coaches to send you.
“If you hit a ball to center field and you are just easy out of the box with the assumption that it will be fielded cleanly, if it kicks away from the outfielder and you haven’t hit first base yet, you can’t take that extra base,” said Price. “It is completely different if you are full-go out of the batter’s box and two steps around first base when the fielder boots the ball. It is from inception of the play that is really the most important.”
THE REDS WON THEIR exhibition opener Tuesday against the Cleveland Indians, 10-0, and what made it so unusual is that 10 different Reds drove in one run each.
Manager Bryan Price knows it is meaningless in the big picture, but said, “We had 10 RBI from 10 different players which speaks well of our team’s diversity. It’s the first game of spring training and you get 15 hits and yu don’t give up any runs you know a lot of things went well.