CINCINNATI — It was early morning a week ago Sunday, the 23rd of April, and Scott Schebler was seated in front of his locker.
He was mired in a deep funk, a slump of mythical proportions. He was 5 for 43 and his batting average for the season was on the interstate at .153.
On a whim, I walked over to him, tapped him twice on the shoulder and said, “Two hits today. I used to do that for Jay Bruce once in a while and it worked. And I did it for Aaron Boone.”
Schebler went out on the field that day against the Chicago Cubs and went 2 for 4 with a home run and two runs batted in. Then he took his act on the road and it was a hit parade.
DURING THE FIVE-GAME TRIP Schebler went 11 for 23 with five home runs and nine RBI. He went hitless in one game, but had two hits in three games and three hits in another.
And he returned home with is batting average on a steep incline, up to .244 and rising.
When he saw me in the clubhouse Monday afternoon, before the start of a four-game series with the Pirates, he smiled and said, “Thanks. I was thinking about that on the trip.”
THIS IS NOT TO CLAIM CREDIT for Schebler’s dynamic turnaround. Just a fun fact. Schebler did it all on his own. How? “By staying firm in my convictions and staying positive.”
When Schebler was hitting .153, some fans were yelling for his head on a spear, offering to pay his way to Louisville or even Timbuktu.
But manager Bryan Price would have none of that because as he said, “I believe Scott Schebler can be a great player, to be a sensation player.”
In fact, during Schebler’s slow start, Price called him into his office for a positive kick in the can.
“He pulled me into his office and told me, ‘Hey, I get this. I get what is going on. You are our guy.’ And that meant the world to me and it relaxed me a little bit,” said Schebler. “You get into one of those things and think, ‘Man, I need a hit today or I won’t play tomorrow.’ You say that to yourself and that’s not the way to think.”
EVEN THOUGH HIS BATTING average was submerged below sea level, Schebler felt he was hitting the ball hard but always right at somebody or somebod would run down a gapper and catch it.
It was worse last year. Schebler was sharing left field with Adam Duvall, but after six weeks his average was .175. He found himself back at Class AAA Louisville and he tore the league into tiny pieces. He was a Class AAA All-Star.
He was called back up August 2 after Jay Bruce was traded and he took over right field. Over the last 44 games of the season he hit .329 with seven homers, six doubles and 28 RBI.
“I saw through some of the stuff that doesn’t add up, stuff that I can’t control,” he said of his turnaround this year. “I was hitting the ball hard early on and it was just a matter of time. I’ve been through it before and being through it, experiencing it, I understand how it works and that I will get out of it.
“You tell yourself certain things like, ‘I’ve been here before and I can get through this.’ That’s what I was telling myself — that I’ve been here before, I’ve experienced this, just be calm and work the process and I’ll be where I want to be,” he said.
SCHEBLER PAUSED AFTER TALKING about himself and said, “And I promise you this team is going to get rolling. I just know it.”
Said Price about Schebler’s resurgence, “The thing I’ve liked the most in his recent approach is he is killing the ball to left center. Not everything hit hard is pulled, not every home run is pulled. That says a lot about where he is mentally and about his approach.”
ON AN OPPOSITE PLANE, after three outstanding starts to his major league career, lefthanded pitcher Amir Garrett ran into a guillotine during his last start in Milwaukee, 10 runs (nine earned) in 3 1/3 innings.
He was back on the mound Monday to face the Pittsburgh Pirates and Price said, “You have to see how guys come back after they struggle in this game. It is an inherent part of this game. Nobody is good all the time. How you absorb the blows when you struggle, when you have high expectations and things don’t go the way you want it to, really dictates what kind of careers there guys have.
“It is about who handles the struggles and who goes into the depths of darkness when you’re struggling and who is able to pull themselves out and stay positive to gain that consistency that is needed to stay in this game,” Price added.
WITH THE RETURN OF DEVIN Mesoraco, the Reds now have three catchers and that’s a good thing for the team and a bad thing for No. 3 catcher Stuart Turner.
“We like Stuart Turner so much and we feel he is ready to catch up here,” said Price. “It is hard to have this much catching depth. It slows down the (development) process for Stuart. He isn’t going to play much. It is a double-edged sword because there are some really good things that go with having three catchers (Mesoraco and Tucker Barnhart can pinch-hit when they aren’t playing and the team still has a back-up catcher). But the bad thing is that the third catcher doesn’t play much.”
The Reds want to keep Turner and to do that they have to keep him on the 25-man roster as a Rule V player. They paid the Minnesota Twins $100,000 to get him and if the Reds don’t keep him on the 25-man roster all year they have to offer him back to the Twins for $50,000.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“When the bullpen gate opened last year, we never knew who was going to come out and how they were going to perform. The door opens now and we have a pretty good understanding of what we’re going to get, with the five true relievers (Raisel Iglesias, Michael Lorenzen, Drew Storne, Wandy Peralta, Tony Cingrani).” — Reds manager Bryan Price.