Who was that mystery man in street clothes?

CINCINNATI — A gentleman, dressed in a black jacket and gray slacks, his gray hair neatly in place, was walking down the tunnel under Great American Ball Park Wednesday afternoon, all by himself.

As he came into focus a broad smile crossed both our faces as recognition hit us. It was The Ghost of Christmas Past.

It was Lou Piniella, Sweet Lou Piniella, the man who as manager led the 1990 Cincinnati Reds to a World Series victory. Piniella is back with the Reds as a special advisor. That, of course, leads to wishful thinking by fans who believe he is here to be the next manager.

“That isn’t going to happen,” he said. “I’m done with that. I’m happy to be back in the game with a little involvement, but I won’t be managing ever again.”

PINIELLA SAID HIS involvement will be just five or six days a month. “They want me to evaluate their young players so I’ll spend time in Louisville and Pensacola. I’ll give them reports and they can either use them or throw them into the trash.”

With that Piniella turned toward a white door and asked, “Is this the door to the home clubhouse?” It was. And it was his first time to walk into it.

ANTHONY DeSCLAFANI was on target to pitch Opening Day but couldn’t make it because he landed on the disabled list with soreness in his left oblique. Does anybody know where their oblique is?

He was on the mound Wednesday, but not as the starting pitcher. Before batting practice he pitched a three-inning simulated game against hitters and came out pumped and excited — well, as pumped and excited as the taciturn DeSlcafani ever gets.

“Everything went great,” he said. “All my pitches were working. I can’t wait for my season to start. I wish it was tomorrow.”

HIS TARGETED DEBUT is for Sunday afternoon against the Pittsburgh Pirates, if all his working parts are intact and the pain doesn’t return without the aid of a bottle of Advil.

“He threw the ball really, really well,” said manager Bryan Price. “I was real pleased to see how the ball came out of his hands. He didn’t compromise anything on his delivery. He had good velocity and was sharp with his breaking stuff.”

About pitching Sunday, Price said the team would see how he comes out of it tomorrow and then see how he does in a bullpen session Friday. Asked if they had a back-up plan if he couldn’t make the Sunday start, Price said, “We do. Yes, we do.” But he wouldn’t reveal it, nor would he reveal how many pitches DeSclafani would be able to throw if he makes the climb to the mound Sunday.

“I don’t mean to be coy, but I want to make certain I’m saying the right name,” he said. “We do have somebody in mind (probably Dan Straily). We really don’t want to talk about how many pitches Antony can throw because we don’t want the opposing team to know what the pitch count is.”

OUTFIELDER JAKE CAVE’S uniform was hanging in a locker on Opening Day, but Jake Cave wasn’t in it. And now both Cave and his uniform are gone.

As a Rule 5 player Cave had to remain on the team’s 25-man roster all season or be offered back to the New York Yankees, the team to whom the Reds paid $50,000 to claim Cave. The Reds put Cave on waivers and he cleared, meaning the Reds had to offer him back to the Yankees before the Reds could keep him and send him to the minors.

Instead of Cave, the Reds kept outfielders Adam Duvall, Scott Scheduler and Tyler Holt.

THE YANKEES WANTED Cave back and it cost them $25,000 to get him back.

“We would have loved to keep Jake, no doubt about that,” said Price. “He is a terrific young player and we all saw him as a big-leaguer. There was some limitations on the amount of playing time I could get him this year. My big concern was with the history of Donald Lutz and Neftali Soto — guys who have come up and not played much at a very young age and how they weren’t able to deal with that. And also how they performed after returning to the minor leagues (not very good with Lutz and Soto). I would hate to see that happen to Jake.”

AS FOR PLAYING time, Price was asked if left field was a straight platoon situation with right-hander Adam Duvall and left-hander Scott Schebler. It’s not. And Price proved it already.

The Phillies started right-handers in the first two games. Duvall started on Opening Day and Schebler started Wednesday.

“I look at the matches and there are pitchers who are better at getting left-handers out or right-handers out,” said Price. “And I don’t want either of them to spend too much time not getting regular at-bats in the starting lineup.

“And there are days when I can play both,” he added. “If I need to give Jay Bruce a day off Duvall can play right and if I need to give Billy Hamilton a day off Scheduler can play center. It will not be a straight platoon at any time, by any means.”

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