CINCINNATI — A large square digital clock, about a foot long and a foot wide, hangs on a wall adjacent to the locker occupied by Jay Bruce.
It read 3:45, 15 minutes before the trade deadline Friday and Bruce was sitting in red shorts and red t-shirt at his locker, scrolling through tweets on his iPhone.
Suddenly he was attacked by five television cameras and several writers. The camera lights came on and microphones were thrust in his face.
NEARBY, JOEY VOTTO observed the swarm and said, “What’s going on? Was Jay traded?” When he was told that no trade had been made, Votto said, “Then what’s the big deal? Why is that going on over there with Jay?”
After the interview, Bruce remained seated and began scrolling his iPhone again. Votto shook his head and said, “Don’t worry. After today this clubhouse will look like a ghost town. The only people in it will be us (the players) and the regular writers.”
At 3:50, Votto said to Bruce, “We stretch on the field in 10 minutes. And I emphasize the ‘we.’”
Bruce remained in his chair, scrolling, scrolling, scrolling. He did not want to be traded but his name was out there, still attached to a possible deal with the New York Mets.
Shortly before 4 o’clock, it was announced that Yoenis Cespedes, an outfielder, had been traded to the Mets. Could Bruce now breathe easier?
“I haven’t taken a deep breath in 24 hours,” he said. And Votto said, “We’ll have 10 more years together here.”
Bruce didn’t make a move to pull on his baseball pants and he looked up at the clock that read 3:55. “Five more minutes,” he said.
When the clock reached 3:59, he pulled on his baseball pants and batting practice jersey — a jersey that said ‘Reds.’
THERE WAS AN earlier furor at 3 o’clock when a national writer tweeted that Bruce was not in Friday’s lineup and assumed that meant he was traded. Not true. It was a planned day off and manager Bryan Price told Bruce after Thursday night’s game that he was getting Friday off against Pittsburgh left hander Jeff Locke.
“I go into a four-game series like this trying to plan ahead and lineups flucuate from day to day,” said Price. “I talked to Jay about it and told him what we were doing and why.”
The possibility of a trade had zero influence.
AT 12:30 FRIDAY morning, just an hour-and-a-half after the Reds beat the Pittsburgh Pirates Thursday night, 15-5, Price had heard nothing about a trade for Mike Leake.
Not long afterward it came down — Leake to the San Francisco Giants for infielder Adam Duvall and right handed pitcher Keury Mella.
With the trade of Johnny Cueto earlier in the week, the Reds were left with two huge holes in the starting rotation and it appears the spots are open for tryouts.
Left hander David Holmberg was called up from Class AAA Louisville Thursday to take Cueto’s turn and acquitted himself well. In his 2015 major league debut he held the Pirates to two runs and five hits over six innings.
SO WHO TAKES Leake’s turn Sunday? So far it is Mystery Man. No decisions yet.
Price named rookie Keyvius Sampson and veteran Dylan Axelrod as possible stop gaps. Sampson made his major league debut Thursday night out of the bullpen and went 1-2-3 with two strikeouts. He was a starter at Louisville before two pitchers acquired from Kansas City in the Cueto deal arrived. Left handers Brandon Finnegan and John Lamb were put in the rotation.
Finnegan made his Louisville debut Thursday night and struck out the side in his first inning, then gave up a home run in the second and a couple of doubles in the third, “But it was sort of a settling in experience and we got him up to 40 to 50 pitches and that will continue to increase,” said Price. “Our guys loved his stuff and he is a strong makeup guy and a great competitor.”
Price said once his pitch count is built up Finnegan will be seen in the rotation before the season is over.
ANOTHER POSSIBILITY is right hander Robert Stephenson, the Reds No. 1 draft pick in 2011. He was recently promoted from Class AA Pensacola to Class AAA Louisville and is 4-and-0 in five starts with a 2.40 ERA. He has given up only eight runs in 30 innings with 20 hits, 11 walks and 31 strikeouts.
Price knows he has been handed a pair of handcuffs and told to put his hands in both of them with the trades of Cueto and Leake.
“This is the environment we’re in right now,” said Price. “We’re sellers more than buyers. We had two of our top pitchers going into free agency and our organization decided we needed to get something for them.
“It is another tough loss for us because Leake has been a career Red (as was Cueto) and he leaves a huge hand print on the organization for his contributions. I’ve been in touch with (San Francisco manager) Bruce Bochy just to let him know he is getting a top caibre pitcher and person. They’ll be better off for having Mike Leake down the stretch, that’s for sure.
“We are going to miss both Johnny and Mike a great deal and they are going to make two playoff calibre teams much better,” Price added.
WITH THE TRADE of Cueto and Leake, the Reds received four pitchers and one infielder and Price said, “Our shortage now, after all these deals, is still position player talent at the higher levels.”
THERE WAS another close call in trade talks, the possibility of closer Aroldis Chapman going to the Arizona Diamondbacks. A report, though, indicated that the Reds wanted too much in return for Chapman and that makes sense. Reds special advisor Kevin Towers is a former general manager of the Diamondbacks and knows their system probably better than the guys there now. The Diamondbacks feared the Reds would ravage Arizona’s prospect list in a deal for Chapman and backed away.