CINCINNATI — Unless somebody purchases Wrigley Field for $24 before the end of the season, Cincinnati Reds pitcher Dan Straily has to be The Baseball Bargain of the Year, right?
When Straily takes the mound Sunday against the Pittsburgh Pirates he will lug a 12-and-8 record with him. And the cost to the Reds? Just $512,500.
The only reason Straily is with the team is because the Reds were desperate just before the season began. Starting pitchers were falling like soliders at Gettysburg and the Reds needed a plug until the rotation got healthy.
Just three days before the season opened the Oakland A’s didn’t want Straily. Why would they? In his previous two seasons with the Oakland A’s, Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros he was 1-and-4.
The Reds took a flyer on Straily and he is flying high, the most consistent pitcher in the rotation. He pitched eight innings in his last start and held the Milwaukee Brewers to two runs and three hits. By giving up only three hits, Straily set a frachise record with 11 starts during which he gave up three runs or less.
REDS MANAGER BRYAN PRICE was incredulous when told of Straily’s accomplishment.
“Frachise record? Geez-Louise. I mean, Jim Maloney has about a million one-hitters and several no-hitters,” said Price. “We’ve had some legendary type pitchers come through here. That is not easy to do. These guys are good hitters.
“We don’t have a team that doesn’t have good hitters at this level of play,” Price added. “We are quite proud of what Dan has been able to give us this year and one of the big keys has been his consistency.”
What is amazing about Straily’s record is that he is a fly ball pitcher in Great American Ball Park, where a pop-up often plops into the front row of the seats for home runs. Straily, in fact, has given up 27 home runs, only two less than the league-leading 29 given up by teammate Brandon Finnegan.
HOW IS IT POSSIBLE FOR STRAILY to survive in Great American Small Park?
“Make sure they are higher than they are further,” Price said of the fly balls hit off Straily. “You have to somehow find a way to get off the middle of the barrel. Dan does that. You have to get to the top of the barrel where it keeps the ball in the ballpark or gets an infield pop-up.
“We’ve alluded all year to the deception on his fastball and the ride on his fastball,” said Price. “That has something to do with guys hitting the ball in the air but not hitting it squarely on the middle of the barrel.”
It would be easy for the cheapo home runs to get into a pitcher’s mind. It has happened here many times. Aaaron Harang comes to mind.
“You can’t let the park get into your head and pitch at this level if you are trying to defend the homer,” said Price. “If you don’t trust your stuff you are not going to pitch well anywhere. And Straily seems to trust himself and he attacks the zone. He never has a fear of throwing the ball over the plate.”
STRAILY IS NOT ONLY a delight to watch pitch, he is a delight to interview because of his honesty and his insight. He is a positive in the clubhouse, too, a guy not afraid to share his baseball knowledge and experience with his teammates. After he taught Finnegan his change-up at mid-season, Finnegan’s season turned for the better. Nobody asked Straily if he also taught Finnegan his Home Run Pitch.
It was brought up about Price saying Straily is fearless in throwing pitches into the hitting zone and having success. Straily has the answer.
“I just want contact,” he said. “I want to go as long in a game as possible. Good things happen when you let guys hit the baseball. I want contact, but I want the weakest contact possible and I want it hit right at somebody. I know that’s asking for a lot, but that’s what I’ve learned over my years.
“I had a couple of guys really teach me that lesson when I was younger,” he said. “I used to try to miss bats constantly. But they showed me the value of allowing contact. I’m just not afraid of it. I just go right at guys with whatever I have that day. I say, ‘You are going to hit me or you’re not.’ That’s the way I approach it.”
AFTER HIS EIGHT INNINGS against the Brewers, somebody asked if he tried to talk his way into pitching the ninth for a possible complete game.
“I slightly tried to go back out for the ninth, but I knew my chances were slim and none. I didn’t fight too hard for it,” said Straily. “You choose your battles and that was one I wasn’t go to win.”
Straily said Price approched him after the eighth and said, “Good job.” Straily said, “Thank you,” and Price said, “You’re done.” End of discussion.
There was a chance Straily might have been taken down after six innings. The Reds led, 4-1, and it was his turn to bat, a guy who does not have a hit this year in 57 plate appearances. But Price let him stay.
“Price came to me and said, ‘How ya doing?’” And I said, ‘Fine. I’m good. How are you? I’ll keep going,’” said Straily. And he did. “I’ve always been honest with it and if I can’t go I tell them, ‘That’s all I got tonight.’ It is very rare that it happens.”
And it is even rarer that Straily gives up more than three hits in a game. As for signing Straily in the first place? Who knew?