The old baseball movie, ‘It Happens Every Spring,’ tell us exactly the way it is.
Nearly every spring on nearly every team a player emerges out of nowhere during early spring exhibition games, playing like the next Hank Aaron or Babe Ruth.
BACK IN 1983 a young outfielder/first baseman named Jeff Jones was the darling of spring training for the Cincinnati Reds at old Al Lopez Field in Tampa, Fla. His minor league statistics were not eye-popping, not oven noteworthy, but during spring training opposing pitchers couldn’t get him out.
Former general manager Dick Wagner insisted he be taken north with the Reds and installed in right field. So there he was on Opening Day.
He lasted 16 games, 44 at bats. He hit .227 with 11 walks and 13 strikeouts. And that was it. He was sent back to the minors and never heard from again, never seen in a major league uniform.
IS PHILLIP ERVIN THIS year’s Jeff Jones for the Reds? In three minor league seasons since the Reds drafted him No. 1 in 2013 his minor league average is .241.
But he is in camp with the Reds and tearing it up. He hit his second home run in two days Sunday afternoon during the Reds’ 9-3 loss to the Colorado Rockies. He had two hits in two at bats and two RBI in the team’s second game, a 4-4 tie with the Cleveland Indians.
Ervin, 23, drafted out of Samford University in Alabama, has played only 17 games above Class A and hit .235 in those games last season for the Class AA Pensacola Blue Wahoos, which is where he probably will land before spring training is over.
But for now, the guy whose Twitter handle is @Mr_Magic Ervin (as in basketball icon Earvin Magic Johnson, is making an early statement.
IT WAS A BAD pitching day Sunday for the Reds, from top to bottom.
Jon Moscot, making his second start of the spring, gave up three runs and four hits in three innings, including a two-run home run to David Dahl.
The wind was blowing out at Goodyear Ball Park and the Rockies took advantage of it with three homers to only Ervin’s for the Reds.
The Reds did not tender contracts to pitchers Ryan Mattheus and Pedro Villarreal after they pitched for the club last year, but offered them minor league deals with invitations to the big league camp. Both accepted.
BOTH PITCHED SUNDAY and it wasn’t pretty. Villarreal pitched two innings and gave up a run and three hits, the run coming on a Mark Reynolds home run.
Mattheus pitched only one inning but was stung for three runs on three hits.
It wasn’t a sound performance for either guy, both of whom know there are gaping holes in the Reds bullpen that need to be filled.
OF PERHAPS MORE importance is the health and well-being of some key operatives who are coming off surgeries or injures.
Shortstop Zack Cozart (knee surgery) hasn’t played and says all is going well, but there is no timetable for him to play in games.
Catcher Devon Mesoraco (hip surgery) has been pushed back on his possible first-game appearance.
Billy Hamilton (shoulder surgery) continues to encounter stiffness in the shoulder and isn’t playing.
Pitcher Raisel Iglesias (shoulder fatigue) is only throwing bullpen sessions and hasn’t faced a hitter, which is next on his agenda. The plan is to get him on the mound in the middle of spring training, which would give him enough time to get ready to start at the back of the rotation — if there are no setbacks.