CINCINNATI — The 2016 baseball season for the Cincinnati Reds is nearly one-fourth completed and there are those who say, “Why finish the season?”
They have to finish the season because they have to play teams who are winning, who are in contention for titles, and the Reds have to do their best to try to beat them.
At their current rate the Reds are on a sluggish pace to lose 101 games this season, which would match the worst record in franchise history.
WHAT IS MOST disheartening to manager Bryan Price and everybody wearing a Reds uniform, other than enough injuries to bankrupt an insurance company, is the less-than-pedestrian work of the bullpen. It is almost unfathomable to believe, but it’s true — the bullpen has had 13 save opportunities and has blown nine. They’ve converted only four — the same number of saves Aroldis Chapman has for the New York Yankees after missing the first 30 days of the season.
After losing to the Cleveland Indians Wednesday night, 8-7, in 12 innings, somebody mentioned how tough it had to be to lose a game that way.
“Yes,” said Price softly. “It is. It is. It is.” At this point he appeared near tears. And who could blame him. His position gives him an exemption to the phrase, “There is no crying baseball.”
“ It has been a rough first 40,” Price added. “It won’t be like this all season but it has been a rough first 40.”
PRICE, MORE THAN LIKELY, is whistling past the tombstones when he says it won’t be this way all season, because there are no indications of a cavalry charge from behind the bleachers. One-fourth of the season is gone without a pitch being thrown in anger by Homer Bailey or Anthony DeSclafani or Michael Lorenzen. Raisel Iglesias hasn’t been seen much, nor has Jon Moscot. Catcher Devin Mesoraco is gone for the rest of the season.
Every time one of the injured starting pitchers appears on the brink of returning a setback arrives. Who knows for sure when any will be back and how effective they will be when they do return. There is also the distinct possibility that more veteran pieces will disappear at or near the trade deadline.
The last 120 could be just as ugly as the first 40 and could be worse.
IF JAY BRUCE continues his offensive aggression he will be a marketable commodity at the trade deadline, or before. In the first three games against the Cleveland Indians Bruce hit .636 (7 for 11) with two homers, four RBI and three runs.
He has pushed his batting average to .290 with eight homers and a team-leading 27 RBI. AS A VETERAN WHO has worn a Reds uniform for nine years, what he sees has to be painful.
“This whole clubhouse has an expectation of themselves to come to work every day, do their job, prepare,” he said. “But it is tough. Yes, very tough losing. It is tough having leads and losing them. It also tough when we don’t hit very well. We just haven’t matched up (pitching with hitting and hitting with pitching) much this year.
“That’s in the past and the only option for us is to look forward,” Bruce added. “Nobody is feeling sorry for us and we can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We just have to do better on both sides of the ball.”
IN AN EFFORT to do better, before Thursday’s game slump-infected Joey Votto (.214) was on the field early taking extra batting practice, with special advisor Lou Piniella watching intently. And third baseman Eugenio Suarez, who made two errors Thursday night, was on the first honing his skills at third base.
“Suarez is not even close to being a finished product at third base simply because he is a shortstop playing third base,” said Price. “The ball gets on him a lot quicker and he is trying to learn what his footwork should be.
“You can’t drop to you knee to block a ball at shortstop,” said Price. “No time. At third base there might be times when you can take a knee and keep the ball in front of you.”
Price said infield coach Freddie Benavides works almost daily with Suarez on positioning, knowing the hitters and defending bunts.
“The best thing about the situation we are in currently (last place, going nowhere) is the fact he has the freedom to learn the position without feeling like whatever his shortcomings might be won’t play a huge part in our ability to win the World Series.”
AND THIS SAYS it all about where Price and the Reds stand on the injury charts. Price said it humorously and facetiously, but what he said has a point, too.
Center field Billy Hamilton crashed hard into the wall chasing a double Wednesday night and hit the ground hard on his ricochet. But he stayed in the game and was in Thursday’s lineup.
When Price was asked if Hamilton is OK, he smiled and said, “Sometimes you get to the point with injuries that you don’t want to ask any more. ‘He looks OK to me. He is on his feet. He’s fine.’ I say that tongue-in-cheek.”
But it’s true.