To say that Cody Reed is off to an inauspicious start is to say that it gets dark at night.
Reed, a tall left hander who most baseball people believe is the best pitcher in the Cincinnati Reds system, is pitching more like Donna Reed right now.
In his first three starts he is 0-and-2 with a 9.00 earned run average on 16 runs and 24 hits in only 16 innings. And he has given up six home runs in those 16 innings and five walks.
THOSE KINDS OF NUMBERS get most pitchers a ticket to Cucamonga or Timbuktu, but Reed is not most pitchers.
Yes, it is dark as night for Reed right now, but to boost his confidence all he need to do is to check the records of some proficient pitchers from the past.
In his first two major league season, Tom Glavine was 9-and-21. In his first two seasons Greg Maddux was 8-and-18. In his first five seasons Nolan Ryan was 29-and-38. In his first two seasons Randy Johnson was 10-and-13.
And those four pitchers have something in common besides starting their careers with mostly bad teams — they all are enshrined in Cooperstown as four of the best pitchers ever.
THERE WAS A DAY in 1974 when the Reds were beating up the Philadelphia Phillies in Riverfront Stadium. Left handed pitcher Tommy Underwood was barely off the plane after a call-up from the minors when he was inserted into the game for his major league debut.
He recorded one out. He gave up six runs on four hits, including a home run) and two walks. And the Phillies lost the first five games in which he appeared.
But in 1975 the Phillies turned him into a starting pitcher and while was not Hall of Fame calibre, not even close, he did win 86 games.
THIS IS, OF COURSE, not to say that Reed is on his way to the Hall of Fame, or even a productive career, but bad starts do not a career make. And, yes, he is pitching for a bad team.
His major league debut was his best, a seven-inning outing in Houston during which he gave up four runs and six hits while walking three and striking out nine. And he gave up two home runs.
After the game he was asked what he had learned in his debut and he said, “I learned that you can’t make mistakes with pitches in the strike zone. If you do they hit them and they hit them hard.”
His next start was against San Diego and he gave up five runs and nine hits over five innings and gave up another home run.
On Wednesday against the Chicago Cubs it was Ugly Time — four innings, seven runs, nine hits, three home runs.
“I guess I’m just a slow learner,” Reed said after Wednesday’s game. “It isn’t like I was trying to give up home runs or trying to walk people. My nerves get to me. I’m excited to get out there. I’m anxious. Things haven’t really been going my way. I’m trying to look past it.”
REDS MANAGER BRYAN Price, one of Reed’s biggest boosters, looked on the bright side of Reed’s dark day.
“His best pitch today, as far as consistency and quality, was his changeup,” said Price during his post-game media meeting. “It’s a pitch we asked him to spend a lot of time with Ted Power at Triple-A (Louisville). It’s a better pitch than it was in spring training. He’s making some flat-plane fastball mistakes over the plate and throwing a lot of fastballs and these guys are putting it on the barrel right now. He’ll make his adjustments.”
Glavine, Maddux, Ryan and Johnson made the proper adjustments, as did Underwood. And there is no doubt Reed will do the same. Learning in the major leagues is, for sure, a School of Hard Knocks.
“You don’t come into spring training and pitch the best of our whole group if you don’t have a certain sense of self-confidence,” Price said of the 6-5, 225-pounder from Horn Lake, Miss. “The wins and losses aren’t important in spring training, but you are trying to make an impression and to compete and make the team. That’s pressure. He understands how to handle it, how to compartmentalize it.
“This is a great opportunity for him and I don’t think he puts things on his shoulders and the burden of things he can’t control. He just goes out there and pitches and it’s terrific. He is a very developed young guy.”
As Dorothy said to Toto in The Wizard of Oz, “Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” And Reed is not in spring training anymore. It is ‘for real’ time and he is taking his learning lumps. How he responds will say a lot about his future.