CINCINNATI — J.J. Hoover and his troubles are now in Louisville, where the Cincinnati Reds hope the harried and hassled erstwhile closer can rediscover his past magic. For the most part this season Hoover’s magic is black magic.
On another day of busy transactions, the Reds optioned Hoover to Louisville, recalled relief pitcher Drew Hayes, selected the contact of relief pitcher Steve Delabar, placed pitcher Jon Moscot on the 15-day disabled list and transferred catcher Devin Mesoraco to the 60-day disabled list.
THE BIGGEST NEWS, of course, is the get-it-back mission the Reds hope Hoover is making after he gave up six home runs in only 10 2/3 innings of relief work this season over 12 appearances. He has given up 17 earned runs, 19 hits and six walks during his short visits to the mound His earned run average is 14.31, ghastly for a relief pitcher.
“We need a platform for him to pitch,” said manager Bryan Price. “We’ve come to some conclusions on how to get him back to where he is throwing the ball the way he is capable of pitching. And until I see that finished product it is hard to put him in a game that is fairly close because he is not locked in.”
They are putting Hoover on a 10-day pitching schedule with Louisville to get as much pitching work as possible and if he has ironed out the many wrinkles and mended the rips in his deliveries he’ll be back, “Because we are a better team with J.J. Hoover throwing the ball the way he is capable of throwing it,” said Price.
SO WHAT ARE the issues with Hoover, other than a propensity for serving up meatballs that are devoured by hitters?
“The thing we’ve worked on is mechanical,” said Price. “We’ve talked about pitch selection. And typically he is a 93 to 95 (miles an hour) velocity guy with some jump. And he can typically throw at the top of the strike zone, one of those unique high ball pitchers that hitters have a hard time getting on top of their stuff.
“And he throws a 12 to 6 curveball, but right now he is throwing his fastball away to right hand hitters and his curve ball is more lateral than I like and that I’m used to seeing,” Price added. “There is a command and velocity problem, but more important than anything is the same shape in all of his pitches and location.
“There is always an emotional component to success and struggle,” said Price. “Once he knows that his delivery is concrete then the confidence will be there as well.”
HOOVER PERFORMED AT a high level in 2012 and 2013, then went into a similar spin as this year’s during the 2014 season, 1-and-10 with a 4.88 earned run average. He bounced back last year to go 8-2 with a 2.94 ERA in 67 appearances.
Asked if this year reminded him of the Hoover of 2014, Price said, “Well, yeah, it is. It is just a struggle. He gets into bad counts. As for his past, in 2012 and 2013 left handers hit under .200 against him. Then in 2014 they hit about .360 with power, which we haven ’t seen.” And now they are seeing it again.
It couldn’t be easy for Hoover to trot from the bullpen at home and hear bird whistles, catcalls and epithets aimed his way.
“That doesn’t make it easier, but he is a tough enough kid,” said Price. “One thing I’ve noticed here is that if relievers, boy, when they don’t do well the fans let them know it. If Coco Cordero (former closer) had a tough game, he’d hear about it. Nick Masset had some challenges here with fan approval. It is an unforgiving role anywhere you play. If you get on a negative roll for a period of time they became an easy target for a fan base.
“Aroldis Chapman was somebody everybody embraced because they liked seeing those 100 miles an hour fastballs.
THE REDS CONTINUE to operate a bullpen with one left hander, Tony Cingrani, who had appeared in five of the last seven games going into Saturday night’s game.
“Fortunately, Tony gets right handers out equally as well as left handers,” said Price. “I like to find stretches for Tony rather than isolation appearances to face one hitter. But, as the only lefty he can be a guy who is overused and overexposed. That’s not something I want to do. It is our good fortune that he has felt really good this week and pitched well. He is getting in a role in a positive way and he is pitching with a lot more confidence.”
OF COURSE HONESTY is always, well, almost always, the best policy and Brandon Phillips was deadly honest Friday night after the Reds won their third straight, two over the morose, morbid and moribund Milwaukee Brewers.
Asked if the Reds were getting it together, Phillips smiled broadly and said, “Yes, but we have to win some games against Chicago, St. Louis and Pittsburgh. That’s no disrespect to the Brewers, because they are a major league team.”
Yes, they are. They’re just not a very good one and it a team the Reds should master.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: Manager Bryan Price on the leaping, arm-banging celebration that Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips have concocted after one or the other hits a home run: “They don’t run that through the manager’s office. It is unique, has its own unique flavor. We all have our individual opinions but they seem to be enjoying it. I’m on the outside looking in on that one.”