UNSOLICiTED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, wearing my Tokyo Yomiuri Giants baseball cap, which everybody mistakes for a San Francisco Giants cap (they are way different).
When Cincinnati Reds pitcher Mike Leake hit a home run Thursday against the Atlanta Braves, it reminded me of a conversation I had recently with Reds manager Bryan Price.
As a pitcher, Leake is a good hitter — he played shortstop at Arizona State University when he wasn’t pitching. Michael Lorenzen is a good hitter — he singled in his first major league at bat and he played outfield at Cal-Fullerton. Jason Schmidt has been a good hitter his entire pitching career.
Four National League teams this season have experimented with batting the pitcher in the No.8 spot instead of No. 8. Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon uses it all the time. The New York Mets, Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies have tried it, too.
Most baseball purists laughed when former St. Louis manager Tony La Russa first used it. His reasoning was that he could use a good hitter in the No. 9 spot, a guy more likely to get on base so that the top of the order, especially the No. 2 and No. 3 hitters, would have more runners on base to drive in.
HAS PRICE THOUGHT about doing it? Yes, he has.
“I thought about trying it in spring training, putting the pitcher eighth and Billy Hamilton ninth,” he said. “But in the long run I thought Billy was better as our leadoff hitters.”
Price sees it both ways.
“I like our lineup the way it lays out leading up to the nine spot,” he said. “You have to see how it plays over the course of the season. But when we played the Cubs, pitcher Jon Lester came up twice in the eight-hole with two outs and runners in scoring position. And they have a nice-hitting lineup of eight players.
“I’m sure there are other times when they’ve set the lineup with the pitcher batting eighth and were really pleased. You almost have to play out a full season and see if it benefited you.”
Of the Hamilton situation, he said, “I thought about that option based on how Billy was doing, if he was getting on base and creating scoring opportunities. I thought it might be an option to bat him eighth, be that second leadoff guy in the lineup to get past the pitcher and help him create some things in the bottom of the order. But I’m thinking he is more of a leadoff hitter.”
MANY WONDER (me included) why Tony Cingrani, talked about all winter as a possible starter, is in the bullpen. Why isn’t he starting and wouldn’t he have been an option when Homer Bailey went down?
“It’s a hard question to answer now because I’d like to get through a significant chunk of the season with Tony healthy” said Price. “I’m talking about a guy who can be a significant contributor to our ball club.
“I like him where he is right now,” Price added. “His breaking ball has gotten a lot better and he is using it more. I still feel he helps us more as a relief pitcher if he is type of pitcher I think he can be. That doesn’t close the door on him being a starter the second half of the season, if we need him.
“It would require us to send him to the minors to get stretched out,” said Price. “I made the decision, I was the big supporter of putting him in the bullpen. It was what we needed for this club at the time. I felt he was best suited there because he was coming off a season with a lot of injuries, shoulder concerns, and the limited development of his off-speed pitches.
“I think he can cut his mix of pitchers to two and come in and be that guy,” Price said. “It just seems to fit his nature. He is very, very aggressive and doesn’t back off and feel his way through nine innings. He goes as hard as he can for as long as he can and his temperament seems better suited for relief at this point in time. Some day he may prove me wrong and be a great starting pitcher.”
HOW BAD IS the Reds bullpen? Real bad. Subtract the 0.00 ERA of Aroldis Chapman and the rest of the bullpen has a 7.81 ERA. But that doesn’t include the runs the bullpen gave up that were charged to the starting pitchers.
SOME SAD NEWS from Arizona. Veteran Reds scout Jeff Barton has been diagnosed with cancer throughout his body. Include Barton and his family in your prayers. He is a good man and a good scout.
ORANGE FRAZER PRESS, the publisher of my book, “The Real McCoy,” has run out of books. That’s a good thing and there are still books available at Amazon.com and book stores. And the publisher has ordered a second printing and will get their shipment