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First-batter home runs perplexing for Reds

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave while watching the Cleveland Indians play the New York Yankees and just knowing the Tribe is going to blow their once big lead to the Detroit Tigers. Wild card, anybody?

To me, the most incredible statistic involving the Cincinnati Reds this year is the number of home runs the relief pitchers have given up this year to the first batter they’ve faced.

After Ross Ohlendorf gave up a walk-off home run Friday night to the first batter he faced, Pittsburgh’s Sean Rodriguez to win the game, 3-2, the number stands at 23 times.

Ohlendorf has been victimized five times and the club record for a season before this year was 20.

It is so bad that the bullpen guys have to walk to the mound thinking to themselves, “Don’t give up a home run to the first batter.” And then they do. It has to be mind-blowing to every member of the bullpen.

RELIEF PITCHER MICHAEL LORENZEN, who has NOT given up a home run to a first batter, wears No. 21 in honor of former Pittsburgh Pirates Hall of Fame and humanitarian Robert Clemente. Lorenzen, a devout Christian, wants to be the humanitarian that Clemente was. Clemente died in a plane crash when he was delivering relief goods for the survivors of an earthquake in Nicaragua.

Lorenzen, a starter last year, wants dearly to return to the rotation, but is content for now to do what the team want him to do — and bullpen work for the Reds this year certainly is God’s work.

“We’re winning, I’m playing in the major leagues, so I can’t complain,” he said. “Being a starter is a personal goal, but ultimately I want to win. We’re winning so it doesn’t matter when they use me and where they use me.”

When Lorenzen came off the disabled list to make his first appearance of the season on June 24, he gave up three runs and five hits in his first two appearances of 2 2/3 innings as he shed six months worth of rust. Since then he has given up three runs and nine hits over his next 12 appearances over 19 1/3 innings, a 1.40 earned run average.

MANAGER BRYAN PRICE’S take on the team’s resurgence after a disastrous first half:

“It’s the guys in the clubhouse and the coaches are busting their tails. These are situations where you see teams phone it in a little bit and this group hasn’t. It has been great because it has to be led by the veterans (the ones who are left) and their effort and ability to go out there and play hard. We’re showing some really good signs for a team that scuffled in the first half.”

CODY REED (0-and-5) struggles mightily in the first inning, the major contributor to his early demise.

“What I notice is his energy level,” said Price. “Sometimes it takes him a little while to settle in and with his effort level. He puts a lot of effort into that first inning.”

In his last start, Reeds threw three pitches and there were runners on second and third with no outs — a first-pitch single and a third-pitch double.

“When the effort level isn’t consistent with what you need to do to execute quality pitches, it doesn’t work very well. We know he is a command pitcher with great side-to-side stuff. That isn’t showing up until after the first inning. He has to control the emotions.”

Former Wright State University coach and major league pitcher Ron Nischwitz offers an idea that worked for him in the past, both as a pitcher and a coach.

“They should have him warm-up twice before the game,” said Nischwitz. “Have him warm-up once, as if that’s the first inning, then have him sit down for a while and then get back up and warm-up again.”

Hey, whatever might work.

POETRY IS NOT MY thing. I don’t understand most of it (my shortcomings). This is not exactly Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, but it is good enough for me, a ditty about the Reds pitching staff penned by Andy Foley of Beavercreek:

Bailey and Straily and DeSclafani,

Lorenzen, Iglesias and Tony Cingrani.

Those are the six that I know can,

And don’t forget Brandon Finnegan.

The bad early innings of Cody Reed,

Remind us that we still have a need.

And rather than just grin and bear it,

Reach down and bring up Amir Garrett.




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