CINCINNATI — In these days of the dwindling baseball season for the Cincinnati Reds, there is a fine line manager Bryan Price must walk.
His team is in lat place, 30 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals, and going nowhere after the season except to the golf course, to fishing holes or to hunting blinds.
So, September should be a time when Price and the Reds get to use games to assess the talent of young players, to get a feel for who they are and what they are for spring training next year.
BUT THERE IS A problem. After Saturday’s doubleheader, the Reds have 28 games remaining and 22 are against teams still in contention for the playoffs.
As Price says, “In our situation, I’d like to get more comfortable with players that are new to the organization or players who don’t have much major league time just to see if we can learn things about them before spring training.
“We have to balance that, though,” said Price. “The tough part is trying to run your best team out on the field aginst the playoff teams.”
But, right now, what is Price’s best team. He doesn’t have a best team. It is a team that is 22 games under .500 and 30 games out of first place.
“We have an obligation to our organization to see our players in preperation for next season. And that’s kind of the balancing act that is so difficult.”
FOR EXAMPLE, the Reds acquired first baseman Adam Duvall from San Francisco in the Mike Leake trade, but first base with the Reds is the beach front property of Joey Votto for close to the next decade. So Duvall was playing left field at Class AAA Louisville before his recent call-up.
When Price was asked how comfortable he is playing Duvall in left field in the majors, Price said, “I’m comfortable with him in left field in September against a team that is not involved in the playoff race. That makes it different than if it is against Pittsburgh, Chicago or St. Louis. I would be less comfortable then.”
BILLY HAMILTON was sent on his way to Class AA Pensacola for a three-game rehab appearance before the Blue Wahoos end their season Monday.
“The hardest thing for a position player is to miss two or three weeks and then try to jump back in there and face big league pitching,” said Price. “It would be a big challenge for Billy to jump right back in and face big league pitching. So, with three games left for Pensacola it gives Billy a chance to jump in there and be closer to being able to come back.”
And when he comes back, will Hamilton return to leadoff or be back at the bottom of the order in the nine-hole.
“I don’t think he’ll be battling leadoff,” said Price. “I think he’ll be back at the end of the order, batting ninth.”
WHEN THE MINOR league season ends after Monday’s games, with neither Class AAA Louisville nor Class AA Pensacola qualified for the playoffs the Reds will make more call-ups.
Price, though, is silent on who else might be joining the Reds? How about pitcher Robert Stephenson or pitcher Brandon Finnegan, who has struggled mightily at Louisville since his acquisition from Kansas City in the Johnny Cueto deal?
“That hasn’t been decided yet,” said Price. “Stephenson is a consideration, one of those guys performing well who could fulfill our needs here. But we’ll see.”
HOMER BAILEY begins a major step on Recovery Road from Tommy John surgery in the next two days when he begins throwing a baseball for the first time since the surgery.
“Pretty much right on schedule, maybe a week ahead,” said Bailey. “I’ll just play catch at first and continue to throw until the end of the season. Then I’ll take some time off to go elk-hunting in Colorado and begin my regular workout and throwing program in December.”
FOR THOSE tub-thumping for Barry Larkin to be the manager of the Reds next season, this from a veteran major league scout: “They fired a guy who has 1,600 major league wins (Dusty Baker) and hired a guy with coaching experience and no managerial experience (Bryan Price). Now they want to hire a guy (Larkin) with no coaching and no managing experience. Do they call that progress around here?”