CINCINNATI — Bryan Price knows he is trudging on a narrow ridge when he pushes for injured players to work to get back into the lineup, even though there are only two weeks left in the season and there are no carrots dangling in front of his Cincinnati Reds, nothing tangible to pursue.
What is the team to gain by pushing Homer Bailey, Zack Cozart and Billy Hamilton back on the field?
Price believes it is a matter of integrity and character.
“We can all make the debate about the advantages or disadvantages of bringing players back (from injuries) or shutting them down for the last two weeks or ten days of the season,” said Price. “We have a roster that is not abundant of active players. Without Zack Cozart, it is a six-man bench. Without Cody Reed and Homer Bailey we’re limited in length.
“We still have to play these remaining games and, to a certain extent, we have to continue to get these guys ready and finish the season with some integrity,” said Price. “We don’t want to get to this point and just let the season drift away. I’d like to be competitive and I want to make sure our players fully understand our expectations that they do everything they can to be on the field.
“The easy thing is to shut it down, that’s the easiest thing in the worlds — to shut everybody down,” he said. “However, that’s not the culture we want to build here. We want guys to fight to get back on the field. That’s what we have to have here. Unless they are deemed incapable of playing, they should be working to get back on the field. I think they are.”
THAT IS WHY BAILEY THREW a bullpen Sunday and why Cozart and Hamilton continue to take treatment with hopes of getting more playing time.
“I don’t know the probability of Zack Cozart’s knee bouncing back,” said Price. “Or Billy’s oblique. But until it is deemed that they cannot play by season’s end, I think we should forge ahead and try to get ready to play baseball.”
When it was mentioned that he is putting himself in jeopardy by pushing guys back on the field when all is lost in the pennant race, Price acknowledged that and said, “You only open yourself for criticism if you insert one of these players back in and they exacerbate a previous injury or injure something else. But we can’t put players in a bubble and say, ‘Hey, listen, don’t take any chances at all.’ We won’t put them on the field unless they are close to 100 per cent healthy. If they’re not, I wouldn’t put them on the field. But we all should be striving to get to 100 per cent and to get back on the field. That’s a reasonable thing to ask — that we all try to play a full season.”
PRICE KNOWS, THOUGH, THAT Hamilton’s situation with a sore oblique is not a quick-fix.
“That’s a tenuous situation because of the injury,” said Price. “He has shown improvement, I saw on the injury report. Feeling better. But it has been zero baseball activituy and probably will be for several more days.
“I’m an optimistic person, but the closer we get to the end of the season with that oblique injury — well, I’m not going to say it is impossible but it is improbable at this point,” Price added.
HAMILTON’S ABSENCE, PROBABLY FOR the rest of the year, will cost him the stolen base title he covets. Milwaukee’s Jose Villar stole two bases against the Chicago Cubs Saturday and trails Hamilton by only two thefts.
While Villar has stolen 56 bases, he has been caught 16 times. Hamilton has 58 thefts, but has been caught only eight times.
Speaking of stolen bases, Rickey Henderson is the all-time leader with 1,406 steals. Henderson, though, also holds the all-time record for caught stealing wtih 335.
BRANDON PHILLIPS has a career-long propensity for grounding into double plays and leads the Reds nearly every year, including this year with 17 so far. He hit into 26 in 2006, 21 in 2008 and 19 in both 2011 and 2012.
But here is one for you? Who holds the record for most times grounding into double plays for a career? The answer is the same guy who holds the record for most consecutive games played (2,632), Cal Ripken with 335.
NOLAN RYAN HOLDS the record, easily, for most strikeouts with 5,714. Who holds the record for most walks issued? Same guy, Nolan Ryan, and it isnt’ even close. He issued 2,795, nearly 900 more than the No. 2 guy, Steve Carlton with 1,833.
Speaking of walks, when Reds pitchers walked 19 Pirates Saturday during a doubleheader loss, it increased their season’s bases on balls total to 588, most in the majors and 33 more than the next worse, the Arizona Diamondbacks.
As many as that seems, it isn’t likely the Reds will set a single season record for walks issued. The MLB record is 835 by the 1949 Boston Red Sox and the National League record is 732 by the 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: Before he walked to the bullpen Sunday for his throw session to test his arm, Homer Bailey was asked, “What’s new?” And he said, “The other team is going around the basepaths and touching home plate more than we are. And he who touches home plate the most wins games.”