CINCINNATI — Bryan Price approached Billy Hamilton as he rubbed pine tar on his bat just prior to Hamilton leading off the bottom of the first inning in Friday night’s suspended game against the St. Louis Cardinals.
“What do you have today, what are you going to do?” Price asked.
“I’m not gonna say it, I’m just going to go out and do it,” Hamilton said.
“It was very prophetic,” Price said with a laugh. “He said, ‘I’m not gonna tell ya, brother, I’m just gonna go out and do it.’”
And he did it. He laid down a bunt, stole second, continued to third on catcher Yadier Molina’s throwing error and scored on a ground ball. That is Cincinnati’s version of Billyball.
“I told him before that at bat, ‘I need you out there wreaking some havoc and get some good pitches for guys to hit behind you,’” Price said. “Nice to have guys who follow orders.”
Later in the game Hamilton singled and again stole second, forcing another throwing error from Molina Amazingly, Hamilton is 10 for 10 in stolen bases for his career against Molina, acknowledged as one of baseball’s best defensive catchers.
“Molina’s throwing times are still great,” said Price. “He is such a terrific defensive player. You figure if the pitcher gives him a competitive time he is going to throw anybody out. If you get a pitche who is 1.25 or 1.30 (seconds) to the plate it takes a spectacular effort to throw Billy out. And those are still fairly competitive times. A 1.25 or 1.30 is still competitive times, good enough to shut down a running game against most baserunners.”
Billy Hamilton is not most baserunners.
HIS MINOR LEAGUE numbers at
Class AAA Louisville this year were not good and scouts who saw him said Brandon Finnegan couldn’t throw strikes.
How wrong the numbers and the scouts were for at least Finnegan’s debut Friday night against the Cardinals. He pitched two innings in relief and left six straight hitters in his, uh, wake. And he struck out two of the six straight he retired.
When it was mentioned that command of the strike zone was a Finnegan problem in Louisville, Price said, “Yeah, but when you are in the minors you are working on things. You are working on your delivery, you are working on a third pitch, you are working on being quicker to the plate.
“You are working on things to try to get yourself to be major-league ready,” Price added. “There is a lot more on your plate and then you come here and say, ‘Hey, I just have to compete and challenge hitters. It’s a different environment.”
Finnegan’s explanation was much simpler: “I had good stuff, but it always seem to be a matter of one or two pitches that beat me.”
Price loved what he saw from Finnegan’s relief work, even though the Reds plan to have him compete for a starting spot next spring.
“He attacked the zone, he really did with his fastball,” said Price. “He missed with his first couple of sliders to Matt Carpenter and then he came back to get him. Then he got Steve Piscotty on a slider and threw some really good breaking pitches. I can see where the Royals could comfortably see him as a guy who could come out of college (Texas Tech) and get big league hitters out.”
Finnegan said he wasn’t running on adrenaline for his first appearance with a new team and added, “I was just focused on making good pitches and getting outs. That’s a tough lineup but I told myself to make good pitches and go from there.”
Price said Finnegan probably won’t start any games this year but he will be a starter next year and that’s what Finnegan wants.
“I know what my role will be and I can prepare in the off-season,” he said. “I didn’t know last year what Kansas City wantd so I wasn’t ready for spring training.”
Knowing that he will be asked to start Finnegan said he will throw more pitches in the off-season. As a relief pitcher, you don’t have to throw as many to get ready.
Asked if winter ball might help him get ready, he said, “No chance. I was at six or seven different places this year and I’m going home as soon as the season ends. I have no need to go anywhere else.”
Finnegan wore uniforms this year in Arkansas, Kansas City, Omaha, Louisville and Cincinnati.
WHILE ONE MIGHT expect Kristopher Negron to be wearing a frown, he was wearing a broad smile in the clubhouse Saturday. And he was also wearing a space age brace on his right arm.
It has to be the bad break of all bad breaks. Negron was called up Tuesday from Louisville and was playing left field late in Tuesday’s game against the Pirates.
He made a long run, made a long dive, and speared a line drive. A spectacular catch. But he destroyed about three different parts of his shoulder that required surgery and five months of no activity.
When somebody said to him, “I bet you wish you hadn’t tried to make that catch,” he smiled broadly and said, “No, I’d do it again. That’s the way I play. I can’t play the game any other way. I have to play it that way.”
Negron said his rehab will end about a month before spring training, “And then I can start doing all the stuff I always do to get ready. Fortunately, it is my non-throwing shoulder (left) or it could have been much worse. That and the fact I’m 29. Hey, it’s all good.”
QUESTION OF THE DAY concerning Joey Votto: “Can a suspended guy play in a suspended game when he isn’t suspended yet?” As one guys said, “That’s like how much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuckwood?”