CINCINNATI — So far this year things are going swimmingly for J.J. Hoover after he nearly drowned last year under wave after wave of defeats.
He was 1-and-10 out of the Cincinnati Reds bullpen and most fans wanted him shipped on a slow boat to Bimini in the off-season.
But manager Bryan Price, a pitcher himself at one time, recognized what was wrong with Hoover, what needed fixing, and stayed with him.
AND AS OF THE fourth game of the 2015 season, Hoover is 2-and-0, one more win than he had all of last season, and his earned run average is 0.00 and he has no walks and four strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings.
What about this transformation.
“Well, it had to be difficult for him after last season because people don’t want to let him forget about it,” said Price. “I’ve forgotten about it. He has his fastball command back, simple as that.
“Last year his fastball was about 50/50 as to whether it was a strike or a ball,” Price added. “And his first-pitch strike stats were also in the 50 per cent neighborhood and that’s way below his standards. It was something that didn’t let him be effective because he was always pitching behind.
“He had similar stuff as always last year,” said Price. “His velocity was there and his curveball was the same, but the location of his mix of pitches, in particularly his fastball, was a step backwrd last year. He focused particularly on getting his fastball down early in the count and then elevate the fastball with two strikes, which is where he has had his most success.”
IT ISN’T THE GREAT EIGHT of The Big Red Machine Era, but those are the same eight guys in the same batting order that took the field for the fifth straight time Saturday against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Is Price superstitious over the 4-and-0 start or is it the fact that it is early in the season and who needs days off this early?
Because of injuries, Price’s projected starting eight last year started only 12 of the 162 games. And catcher Devin Mesoraco, despite hitting only .063 over his first four games, was catching Saturday — a day game after a night game.
“Mesoeraco will get a day off eventually even though right now he is on pace to catch 162,” said Price. “I’m guessing he won’t catch 162. He’ll catch a lot.”
OF THE USE OF all eight in every game so far, Price said, “It’s early. Between now and the end of the Chicago series (on the upcoming 10-game road trip) I will try to get our bench guys a start. The way the season lays out, we had a day off before the opener, a day off after the opener and a day in Chicago after the first three games of the road trip.
“Really, the taxing period is going to come after the Chicago series when we play 17 days in a row,” Price added. “It is hard for the bench players who were playing regularly in spring training to go a week or 10 days without a start or get a number of at bats to stay familiar with what they were doing this spring. I am aware of that but most of the time we will have that same eight out there with regularity unless there is a reason not to have them out there, which typically means an injury.”