For the first half of this season, Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price took more criticism than Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton combined.
Saddled with a mediocre roster and a pitching staff that wore bandages more often than a baseball glove, the Reds lost a lot of games.
And it was expected. Fans were warned that the team is being torn down and rebuilt a brick or three at a time. Nevertheless, Price was deemed a major part of the problem.
SO WHEN THINGS GO right doesn’t Price deserve some credit, even a little bit? Yes, he should.
Price professes to be an old-schooler, liked the game better without the DH and interleague and challenge/replay.
And the team’s success since the All-Star break is in large part due to Price going old-school with his bullpen, back to the days when managers used relief pitchers more than one inning instead of specialists going one inning at a time.
WHEN RAISEL IGLESIAS and Michael Lorenzen returned from the disabled list for the second half, Price broomed the one-inning modus operandi of present-day managers out the back door.
Why not? The bullpen was like a zoo, only smellier. They kept giving up home runs that landed in next year, balls that Glacier National Park couldn’t hold. The bullpen’s statistics were uglier than a discolored toe-nail. It was insufferable to watch and it appeared all one needed to be a member of the Reds bullpen was a valid driver’s license
So why not try something different? And Price is doing that. He is using Iglesias for two and three innings. The same with Lorenzen. Suddenly, the bullpen is prettier than a flower bed.
IT IS ONLY TOO BAD that the light bulb didn’t go on over Price’s head when he had Aroldis Chapman and used him only in the ninth inning. And games kept getting away in the seventh and eighth innings.
Iglesias, pitching two and three innings, is on a streak of 22 consecutive innings without giving up an earned run.
Price brought him into Saturday night’s game in the seventh inning of a 1-1 tie. Iglesias went three innings and gave up no runs and one hit and struck out five. It was a retreat back to the days when Sparky Anderson used Pedro Borbon and Clay Carroll for two, three and four innings.
Unfortunately for the Reds, Price didn’t permit Iglesias to go back out for a fourth inning, the 10th inning. Instead he brought in Jumbo Diaz and suddenly he was April, May and June again. Diaz gave up a game-winning walk-off home run to the first batter he faced, No. 8 hitter Adam Rosales and the San Diego Padres won it, 2-1.
Amazingly, it was the 20th time this season that a member of the Reds bullpen came into a game and gave up a home run to the first batter he faced.
A LOT OF FANS ARE trying to give all the credit to the emergence of Ted Power to the coaching staff. Indeed, that was a good move. Power has languished as pitching coach at Triple-A Louisville, playing the good solider, never complaining about the lack of of a promotion.
When the Reds fired Mark Riggins just before the All-Star break, they named Mack Jenkins as pitching coach and promoted Power to Cincinnati as assistant pitching coach/bullpen coach.
It did seem more than curious that pitchers would do well at Louisville, then come to Cincinnati and flop and flail. They’d be sent back to Louisville and Power would ‘fix’ them. They’d come back and flop again.
Don’t forget, though, Triple-A is not the majors. Moving from Triple-A to the majors is the biggest and toughest step a player makes.
But, as good as Power is, and he is very good — as is Mack Jenkins, another baseball-lifer in the Cincinnati system — one must be fair to Riggins.
He didn’t have Iglesias and he didn’t have Lorenzen and those are the two that have stabilized the bullpen.
How fun is it watching Iglesias, a bubbly personality who exudes confidence on the mound? He reminds some of Bronson Arroyo with his full portfolio of pitches that he delivers with about four different arm angles. Iglesias, though, throws about 10 miles an hour harder.
And fair fans, whether they like Price or not, have to give him at least polite applause for the way he is using his two newest operatives out of the bullpen. It has made more than a significant difference.