CINCINNATI — It was the spring of 2011 and a kid from Graham, Ala., via Coastal Carolina was de-stitching baseballs all over Arizona during spring training.
Because he was only 5-foo-9 and weighs 195 pounds, manager Dusty Baker called him Mighty Mouse.
The Cincinnati Reds brought him north that season and as an extra outfielder he hit .243 in 118 plate appearances. After the season he was traded, along with pitcher Travis Wood, to the Chicago Cubs for pitcher Sean Marshall.
IT WAS ALMOST LIKE seeing MIghty Mouse II Friday afternoon in the Reds clubhouse when Phillip Ervin showed up, recalled from Class AAA Louisville to bolster, for the moment, what has been a weak four-man Reds bench. Arismendy Alcantara (1 for 13) and Stuart Turner (2 for 15) are a combined 3 for 28.
Ervin, at 5-foot-10 and 207 pounds, is mindful of Sappelt, except the 24-year-old Ervin is a No. 1 draft pick (2013) and has had a couple of good spring trainings but hadn’t gotten the call — until Friday.
Ervin is from LeRoy, Ala., and attended Samford University in Birmingham.
AND LIKE JESSE WINKER’S cameo appearance for a couple of day last weekend, Ervin’s stay is probably short-lived for now.
When a writer advised Ervin that his stay might be brief, Scooter Gennett was listening and later told Ervin, “You should have said, ‘A couple of days can turn into 15 years.’ You never know.”
Manager Bryan Price assessed Ervin’s call-up in nearly the same way he did for Winker, who had a game-winning double against the Brewers for his first major league hit, only to be sent back to Louisville the next day.
“It is along the lines of what we did with Jesse Winker — an opportunity to break the ice a little bit, allow Phil to come up and get acclimated to the big leagues together with the guys he spent spring training with,” said Price.
“It will be a bench role, an opportunity to pinch-hit or get involved in a double switch or as a pinch runner. It gives us one more position player, a usable piece so we don’t have to pinch-hit with a pitcher like Michael Lorenzen early in games,” Price added.
ERVIN TEMPORARILY TAKES THE spot of pitcher Tony Cingrani, placed on the 10-day disables list Friday with a strained oblique.
“Maybe it will be just like Jesse Winker and he’ll get the opportunity to get his first hit,” Price added. “It is valuable experience. He has always been a good defender and right now he is swinging the bat well. He has very good baserunning instincts and has been a successful base stealer.”
ERVIN, SURROUNDED BY MEDIA before batting practice, carried a deer-in-the-headlights expression and was nearly at a loss of speech.
“I don’t know how to act,” he said. “I’m taking it, oh, so many emotions built up. I’ve been so close (two spring training camps with the big club) and now it’s finally here, I achieved it, like a life goal, like a dream. I really don’t know how to explain it. I’m just all worked up right now.”
Price talked about Ervin shortening his swing this season but if that’s what he has done Ervin couldn’t express what he is doing.
“Just a lot of work with the coaches in the cages, just doing drills and repetition. What am I doing differently? I don’t know, just trying to, uh, I’m not sure. I really don’t know to answer that. Just little small stuff, not a couple of major things. That’s why it is so tough to explain. I’m just trying to be more direct to the ball.”
About Winker’s short stay and return to Louisville, Ervin said, “I’m very happy that Winker got his first hit and that just motivated me. Just talking to him, I don’t know, I could tell it was just great. We’re good friends and I just enjoy talking to him. And I am just here until they tell me I’m not and I am going to enjoy it and have fun with it.”
THEY MUST HAVE A LOT of disposable income in Cubs Country. MLBShop.com reports that four of the top five selling jersies belong to Chicago Cubs.
Kris Bryant is first, Anthony Rizzo is second, Javier Baez is fourth and Kyle Schwarber is fifth.
The only non-Cub in the Top Five is LA Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw at third. No Cincinnati Reds player is in the Top 20.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“The Cubs have put together a real nice team and lot of teams in baseball are trying to get to where the Cubs are. We’re going through a similar path. You have to introduce your young players to major league baseball, get them comfortable up here, then you have to be able to support them and fill your holes when you have them with free agents when you are to the point where you think you have a chance to win a World Series.” — Reds manager Bryan Price.