CINCINNATI — It isn’t quite as dramatic as the opening line of Moby Dick, “Call me Ishmael,” but it is convenient when the newest Cincinnati Reds pitcher says, “Call me Wojo.”
No problem there. It beats trying to say Wojciechowski. His name is Asher Wojciechowski, selected Friday night from Class AAA Louisville to occupy a spot in the Reds’ ravaged bullpen.
Clubhouse/Equipment Manager Rick Stowe has been around the club forever and said it is the longest name he ever sewed on a jersey.
MANAGER BRYAN PRICE WAS ASKED if he could spell Wojciechowski and the graduate of Cal-Berkeley said, “Not yet. I’m sure I’ll learn. As he said, ‘Wojo works best,’ so I’ll stick with that.”
The pronunciation: Wo/juh/HOW/ski.
The length of Wojo’s name and the difficulty of pronunciation doesn’t concern Price. All he sees is another fresh arm to cover the innings his starters can’t seem to cover.
Wojo, though, is a starter and was 1-and-0 with a 1.40 earned run average in five starts at Class AAA Louisville. But he was the only arm available Saturday after what happened Friday.
THE BATS PLAYED 18 INNINGS against Columbus (Cleveland Indians) and used the entire bullpen. In fact, infielder Hernan Iribarren pitched the final three innings and took the loss. He has pitched twice for the Bats and is 0-1 with a 2.25 earned run average in four innings. Heck, bring him up.
“I was in the clubhouse in the 17th inning last night to get something to eat because we had been playing for five hours and I was starving,” said Wojo. “The trainer came in and yelled at me to get my cleats and go see (manager) Delino DeShields because he wants you to do something.’
“I grabbed my cleats and ran out there and he said, ‘Do you have an inning in you?’ I was like, ‘Uh, uh, I don’t know, I threw a bullpen today,’” Wojo added. “He looked at the pitching coach and he gave a smirk and then Delino said, ‘You’re going to the big leagues.’ That was at 1:30 this morning (Saturday) and quite a shock.”
IT WAS QUITE THE CLIMB, TOO, for the 28-year-old righthander from Beufort, S.C. The Toronto Blue Jays drafted him No. 1 out of The Citadel in 2010.
While he has been in the Blue Jays, Astros and Marlins minor league systems, he appeared briefly in the majors for Houston in 2015 – five appearances, three starts, 0-and-1, 7.16 earned run average on 13 runs in 16 1/3 innings.
He was signed in December by the Arizona Diamondbacks and was in their camp this spring.
“I got released by the Diamondbacks at the end of spring training and I went home for three weeks,” he said. “I continued to throw to the guys at The Citadel — home for three weeks without a job and wondering what was going to happen.”
On April 21, the Reds called and offered him an opportunity to start games at Louisville and Wojo said, “I was just happy to be in Triple-A. And now this.”
THE FACT THAT LOUISVILLE played 18 innings Friday night, limiting which pitcher the Reds could call up, rancors Price.
“There is a complaint about long extra inning games in the minors and I think it will come to a head,” he said. “Two teams involved in that game, of course, and they (Columbus) used eight and we used five before we got Iribarren in the game. That tells you that there were a couple of guys who shouldn’t have been in the game, some guys who could have used a day off and had to pitch.
“I don’t know what the perfect answer is, but it doesn’t benefit any organization if their minor league teams are playing 17 and 18 innings,” Price added. “We needed a pitcher and we got Wojo here. While that serves us for now, it cripples the Louisville team.”
Price likes what he has heard about Wojo in that, “He was given the opportunity and he seized the opportunity. He left such a good impression that he was our best option. We had a roster player scheduled to pitch today in Louisville in Jackson Stephens, but the feeling was that Wojo is more ready to help the club.”
Since Wojo is not on the 40-man roster, the Reds moved minor league pitcher Nefi Ogando to the 60-day disabled list to make room on the 40-man. To get Wojo on the 25-man the Reds placed No. 3 catcher Stuart Turner on the 25-day disabled list with a strained hamstring (nod, nod, wink, wink.) The Reds have to keep Turner on the roster somehow because as a Rule V player if they try to send him to the minors they have to offer him back to the Minnesota Twins for $50,000.
“My understanding from the game reports is that Wojo competes in the strike zone,” said Price. “We got really good reviews about how he goes about his business, how he attacks hitters. That’s what we need. During his time at Louisville, that’s what he has done. Throw strikes. I know pitching isn’t that simple, but it certainly starts there, being able to throw the ball over the plate.”
HOMER BAILEY TOOK ANOTHER forward step Friday when he threw two 15-pitch simulated innings in Arizona and Price said it went very well. His next step is to pitch in a camp game May 24 in Arizona.
“The report I’m getting is that he is recovering well and it is likely he’ll pitch on the 24th in an Arizona game.”
MINOR LEAGUE PITCHER NEFI OGANDO was spotted in the Reds clubhouse before Saturday’s game, complete with a name plate over a locker, so writers assumed he, too, was called up from Louisville.
“Ogando came out of a game a couple of nights ago with some stiffness in his shoulder and he is here to be examined and he’ll be shut down from throwing for several days,” said Price. “He’ll get some treatment here and then probably go to Arizona to do his rehab.”
DISABLED RELIEF PITCHER Tony Cingrani threw in the bullpen before Saturday’s game as Price looked on.
“He threw 20 pitches with zero issues with his oblique,” said Price. “The day after gives us a better idea how he responds. So tomorrow will be a day we hope he feels real good and there are no repercussions. Then we can set a rehab schedule for him, extend him a little more in the bullpen sessions.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“One day off doesn’t necessarily reset a relief pitcher’s arm. Just because you have one day off doesn’t mean a guy is fresh. Keeping an eye on that is really important.” — Reds manager Bryan Price.