CINCINNATI — Bryan Price was able to use the same lineup three days in a row Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the first time the Cincinnati Reds manager has been able to do that since games two through five of the 2015 season.
Then, on Sunday, his lineup card looked like something a team runs out there a day after clinching a championship or a day after being eliminated from contention or an early spring training game.
Those are times when veterans rest and bench players play.
Absent Sunday was shortstop Zack Cozart, center fielder Billy Hamilton, third baseman Eugenio Suarez and catcher Tucker Barnhart.
PRICE LAUGHED HEARTILY when told it had been more than a year since using the same lineup three days in a row, then said, “When we’re healthy, we could have a set lineup. We still have to respect and appreciate what Cozart goes through to take the field (after knee surgery last year). There is a limited period of time he can play before he needs a day off. And it’s the same to a certain extent with Hamilton. So it’s hard to use that same lineup every day.”
And there is another reason.
“I have to get the bench players some game time,” he said. “I think Jordan Pacheco (third base) has started only three games. And Tyler Holt (center field)hasn’t had a whole lot of starts. In order for the guys on the bench to give us any real value they have to get periodic starts.”
THAT ‘EVERY DAY’ lineup consisted of Cozart batting leadoff and Hamilton batting second, a lineup Price likes.
“It’s fun, that flow with Hamilton, Cozart, Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips has a nice feel to it,” he said. “We will see a lot of that to give us a common look. You should see that lineup a fair bit (Cozart, Hamilton, Votto, Phillips, Jay Bruce, Eugenio Suarez, Adam Duvall, Tucker Barnhart, the pitcher).”
Price has moved Hamilton up from ninth to second because, “It gives us that speed component at the top of the lineup. Billy has been getting on base at a higher rate lately and hitting the ball harder over the last week to 10 days. Even some of his outs are balls he hits hard.”
Price has one word for Hamilton’s speed and what happens when he is on base: “Phenomenal.”
And he added, “You see what he does to the pitchers. It’s like a time bomb waiting to go off when he is on the bases.” Price noted that pitchers and defense spend an inordinate amounte of time paying attention to Hamilton when he is on base and said, “Pitchers and fielders invest so much time trying to slow him down. And it is wasted energy, to a certain degree. He still does what he wants.”
PRICE WAS ASKED if he saw New York Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon hIt a home run Saturday. Somebody on ESPN said Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist ran the last quarter mile faster than Colon circled the bases and somebody else said, “That’s not fair. Colon is bigger than Nyquist.”
Said Price, “Man, 42 years old. I’m glad he didn’t hit it against us. When I was pitching coach in Seattle he pitched a playoff game against us in 2001. He was throwing 100 miles an hour in the eighth inning and pitched a 5-0 shutout. And we’d won 116 games. I’d never seen anything like it. He was magical.”
THE REDS SENT 25-year-old Scott Schebler to Class AAA Louisville because they don’t want a young player sitting on the bench too much. They want him to get playing time and Schebler wasn’t getting it since losing the left field battle to Adam Duvall.
So they called up 24-year-old outfielder Kyle Waldrop. Price, though, says it is the same situation with Waldrop.
“He will help us off the bench, but he is another guy I wouldn’t want to have here long term solely as a bench player,” said Price. “I’m hoping to get him some starts, but I can’t guarantee that and he’ll have to stay ready on the bench to give us a quality early game pinch-hit. He gives us a left handed power threat, a guy swinging the bat better after a slow start in Triple-A.”
WALDROP WAS UP briefly last year, just enough time to get his first major league at-bat and his only major-league at-bat so far.
“I started off slow in Louisville but have been swinging the bat better the last two or three weeks,” he said. “I’m just happy to get back here and prove what I can do.”
Waldrop was slowed during spring training by a groin injury, which probably contributed to his sluggish start to the Louisville season. “I missed a lot of at bats and was sent right to Louisville after spring training, but it is better to have an injury during spring training than during the season.”
LOUISVILLE WAS IN Indianapolis Saturday and Waldrop was treating his family and friends to dinner when his cellphone rang in the restaurant. It was Louisville manager Delino DeShields telling him to jump in a car and drive to Cincinnati. Pronto.
“My cousins live in Indianapolis, so my parents and grandparents flew in to watch me play there,” said Waldrop, who is from Fort Myers, Fla. “My aunt flew in, too. When I got the call, I got to tell them all at dinner and my mom lost it. And they’ll all be here today in Cincinnati, a quick change of events, and a nice Mother’s Day gift for my mother.”
SOME CLUBHOUSE HUMOR erupted before Sunday’s game when Billy Hamilton shouted across the clubhouse to Alfredo Simon, “Happy birthday, how old are you, 40?”
“Don’t worry about it. I’m 31,” said Simon.
“You ain’t no 31,” Hamilton said with a laugh as he sprinted to Simon’s locker and jumped on him. Oh, and they were both wrong. Simon’s birth certificate says he is 35 today.