CINCINNATI — When the game began Sunday in Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price felt like the coach of a beer league softball team who hopes enough players show up to field a team.
Outfielders Billy Hamilton and Scott Schebler, both taking treatment for bruised left shoulders, were not in Sunday’s lineup and their availability for usage was suspect.
“So that leaves you with Devin Mesoraco (the backup catcher Sunday) and Patrick Kivlehan on your bench, right? Price was asked.
“You forgot Michael Lorenzen,” Price said with a wry smile, referring to his hard-throwing relief pitcher. But he was serious as everybody in his office laughed heartily.
“I have Bronson Arroyo, too,” he said, harking back to the perfect sacrifice bunt Arroyo laid down as a pinch-hitter Saturday.
ASKED IF HE WOULD USE Lorenzen in the outfield in an emergency, Price never hesitated and said, “Yeah, sure. I know it would probably scare our front office and ownership to death, possibly, but he is an athlete and he works on it.
“He takes balls in center field during batting practice every single day,” Price added. “He hits with the regular batting practice group often. He does all his bunting stuff.”
How about the possibility of injury?
“I dont worry about him getting hurt running the bases or taking an at bat,” said Price. “And I have the same feeling about him in the outfield. We’re guilty too often of putting these guys in a bubble, trying to protect them from injury in a game where you can’t protect anybody from injury. We’re trying to win games here. If the goal is just trying to finish the season healthy, we’d be failing at that miserably and we do everything we can to try to keep them healthy.”
LORENZEN ACTUALLY PLAYED center field every game in college at Cal State-Fullerton. And when the team needed a closer he would trot in from center field and pitch.
While Lorenzen does own an outfielder’s glove, he said other than batting practice he has never used it in a game, not even in the minors because he never played in the field in the minors.
But he was ready, willing and certainly able to play right or center Sunday if called upon.
“Yeah, I’m ready,” said Lorenzen. “All right. It is the game of baseball and I’m always ready to play some baseball, no matter where.”
Lorenzen said he would prepare the way he always prepares before every game, “Hit in the cage, make sure my body is loose, just as I do any other time. Nothing different, just be ready to play baseball.”
Lorenzen said Price had not alerted him to be on notice with his outfielder’s glove, but he said, “You look at the roster right now and it is a common sense type thing. I was even ready Saturday (12-inning game) for something creative to happen. I’m always ready and it is just the game of baseball and whatever he tells me to do I’m going to do it.”
DEVIN MESORACO APPEARS ready to claim the bulk of the catching duties, not every day, but maybe five out of seven?
That probably won’t happen for two reasons: (1) they want to be careful with Mesoraco’s two hip surgeries and his shoulder surgery and (2) Tucker Barnart is not a back-up catcher, he is a 1-A.
And Mesoraco appears content with the current system, a couple of games in a row and a couple of days off, alternating those days with Barnhart.
“Health is no longer an issue with me,” said Mesoraco. “Certainly I’m comfortable sharing with Tucker. Honestly, if I were to try to play every day like I did before I’m not sure I’d make it to the end of the seaosn. My biggest goal is to just be out there, be active, be available.
“Tucker certainly has proved that he deserves to play, so this is a very good situation,” he added. “We complement each other very well and at some point everyone wants to play every day. But I certainly understand and I am thankful for the opportunities I do get.”
HOMER BAILEY PITCHED three innings Saturday in an Arizona camp game and Price said the reports were that it was a challenge because the field was wet and the mound was soggy.
“There were challenges but he got through it fine,” said Price. “We’re lining up his next outing for June 9 and we anticipate it to be for a full-season club (probably at Class AAA Louisville, at home against Toledo). He’ll throw a bullpen in Arizona in a couple of days then we’ll get him settled in with a minor league assignment.”
HALL OF FAME PITCHER DON SUTTON, now an Atlanta Braves broadcaster, believes baseball has seen its last 300-game winner. Since 1990 only four pitchers have made it to 300 and Randy Johnson was the last, making it in 2009.
Sutton pitched 23 years for five clubs, mostly with the Los Angeles Dodgers and won 324 games over 751 starts with a 3.26 career earned run average.
So why won’t there be any more 300-game winners?
“A simple answer. Opportunity,” said Sutton. “The opportunity isn’t there any more. First of all, we used to pitch every fourth day. Now they pitch every fifth day so pitchers don’t start as many games.
“And starters are content to get five innings,” he added. “Everybody is content to get five or six innings out of their starters. It has gotten to the point where it is more important to get the closer a save than it is to get the starter a win.
“I’m not sure anybody wants to step out front and say, ‘I’m changing all that,’” Sutton added. “I have a guy to pitch the eighth inning. He’s called a set-up guy. I have a guy to pitch the ninth. He’s called the closer. To me it makes no business sense because they are getting less-and-less and paying more-and-more.”
WITH THE NCAA baseball tournament underway, Reds shortstop Zack Cozart related a rather startling story about his days at Ole Miss.
His team made it to the super regionals three straight years and lost in the finals. The first year it was to Texas and Drew Stubbs. The second year it was to the Universityi of Miami and Yonder Alonso. The third year it was to Arizona State and Mike Leake.
The common denominator? All three of those players — Stubbs, Alonso, Leake — were picked No. 1 by the Reds in the draft, “And I got three of the four hits we got off Leake,” said Cozart.