CINCINNATI — The Kevin Gregg Era ended almost before it started and for most Cincinnati Reds fans it last about five weeks too long.
Gregg, the right handed relief pitcher the Reds hoped would fill the eighth-inning spot once occupied so successfully by Alfredo Simon, was designated for assignment before Monday’s game.
To take his roster spot, the Reds recalled right handed Pedro Villareal from Class AAA Louisville and, yes, they hope he is the eighth inning answer.
GREGG, 36, HAD a long, successful run in many relief roles for the Angels, Marlins, Cubs, Rangers and Orioles. For the Reds he was a One-Pitcher Disaster Area. In 11 appearances over 10 2/3 innings, he was 0-and-2 and gave up 12 runs, 13 hits and three walks, a 10.13 ERA. And that doesn’t count several runs he gave up that were runners left on base by other pitchers.
MANAGER BRYAN PRICE staunchly defended his continued use of the beleaguered bullpenner because Price had seen over the years what Gregg could do — or had done.
“It is unfortunate because the fans never got to see the best of Kevin,” said Price. “I’ve seen him for a long time in different uniforms and he has done everything — he has started, he has been a middle guy and long guy and a closer, a very good closer.
“We didn’t think we were sticking our necks our for Kevin Gregg, we thought he would be an asset for this ball cub. We felt that in the six weeks we had him in spring training that he was a guy who could pitch the eighth inning for us with his background as a closer and a set-up guy,” Price added. “His stuff looked good. His velocity looked good and his split-fingered pitch looked good and his breaking ball looked good.”
His first chance on Opening Day was an indicator of things to come. Asked to protect Johnny Cueto’s two-run lead, he gave up a two-run game-tying home run and things disintegrated from there.
“That was very difficult and sometimes it is tough to chase that off,” said Price. “He is a professional, a great guy, a tremendous worker and he was doing everything he could to get back on top but it just wasn’t working.”
VILLAREAL, a 27-year-old right hander from Edinburg, Tex., suffered through an awful spring that got him demoted to Class AAA Louisville, but he found himself with the Bats.
Villareal pitched an inning in the second game of the doubleheader Saturday in Chicago against the White Sox and wasn’t good.
“You can’t just give guys like that one opportunity and say, ‘Here it is and if you don’t do well we are going to trade you out for somebody else in Triple-A,’” said Price. “It just doesn’t work that way. We are going to give him opportunities to come in and be a part of our bullpen and hopefully he takes care of it.”
Villareal has been around. The Reds picked him in the seventh round of the 2008 draft and he pitched in the minors five years before his first chance. He has appeared on the roster briefly in each of the last four seasons and is 0-3 with a 6.33 ERA in 13 major league appearances.
IT IS DIFFICULT to comprehend that Mike Leake is in his sixth year in the Reds rotation and that he is 27 years old. It seems only recently that he came directly out of Arizona State University and into the Reds rotation. But that was 2010.
“I remember his first game against the Chicago Cubs here in 2010 and he walked the bases loaded with no outs and pitched out of it,” said Price. “He ended up with a nice debut.
“Now he is a veteran of our rotation, a veteran pitcher and he is a reliable, innings-eating veteran pitcher. And it seems like only yesterday he was coming up and we didn’t know how many innings he could throw. We limited his innings in 2010.”
Leake was Monday’s scheduled starter against Atlanta after two straight scoreless outings of eight innings each on the road in Atlanta and in Pittsburgh.
Of the Pittsburgh start, Price said, “I don’t think I ever saw in the six years I’ve been with him the sink he had on his pitches in Pittsburgh. That was as good as I’ve seen, about 20 ground ball outs in eight innings. An incredible number. He is just feeling it, making every pitch he wants to make.”
HOMER BAILEY, wearing a shoulder-to-hand brace that made him resemble a robot, was sitting at his locker Monday afternoon, three days after Tommy John surgery.
“No, I haven’t begun throwing yet,” he said with a laugh before anybody could ask. “I still have the stitches in.”
Bailey smiled and said, “But this one was not as bad as the surgery I had on my forearm. After that one I couldn’t even bend my fingers, couldn’t hold keys or a coffee cup. I can hold keys and a cup and I can even zip up my pants.” Uh, that goes under the more information than we needed category.