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Of cheap baseballs, juiced baseballs and donkeys

CINCINNATI — Questions of the day: (1) Why do the major leagues and the minor leagues use different baseballs? Yes, they are different. (2) Is the reason that everybody carrying a bat can hit a ball out of the park because of juiced baseballs? (3) What is Zack Cozart going to name his donkey?

The subject of baseballs came up in Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price’s office before Wednesday’s game. He mentioned that some of the problems pitchers encounter when they come from the minors to the majors is that the baseballs are different. Why? Does that make sense?

THE BASEBALLS ARE SO different that when major league pitchers go to the minors on a rehab assignment, as Homer Bailey did last week at Class A Dayton, the Reds send Major League baseballs with him to use in the game while he is pitching.

Why are they different?

“I’ve asked that question for I can’t tell you how long,” said Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price. “I can’t tell you. I think the answer is cost. It has to be the baseball in the minor leagues is less expensive, isn’t it?”

IF THAT’S THE CASE, and major league balls are more expensive, why do they throw new balls out of games if the ball hits the dirt one time and why do they permit players to throw balls into the stands at the end of innings?

“Expense has to be the answer, doesn’t it?” Price added. “Unless there is a shortage of some material they use in major league baseballs. But as many balls as we throw in the stands and hit in the stands there doesn’t seem to be any shortage.”

And what is the difference?

“It’s feel because the seams aren’t as defined on a major league ball,” said Price. “The seams are higher on the minor league ball and that makes it feel different. It feels like the ball is bigger, but you also have better leverage on the grip, making it easier to sink the ball and throw the breaking ball. You come up here and you wonder, ‘Where do I find my grip, where do I find my leverage and pressure point to make the ball spin the way I want?’

“It is so significantly different that it doesn’t make any sense unless they are saying each team is saving $10 million on the baseball budget by making minor league affiliate use cheaper balls and we know that isn’t true,” Price added.

NOW, ABOUT ALL the home runs and the possibility of juiced up balls. The majors are on pace to set an all-time record for home runs in a season, on pace for 500 more than the 2000 record of 5,693 — and we all know that was the steroids/PED era.

“I don’t know if you can notice a difference in a ball by feel,” said Price. “As far as the conspiracy theories, for me, I’ve thought about it many times — shouldn’t you be able to slice open a baseball and compare it to older baseballs and define if they are different?

“Wouldn’t that be the simplest thing? We’ll weigh it, measure it, saw it in half and define if it is wound tighter or if there is magic pill in the middle that is making it shoot 40 extra yards?” said Price. “There can’t be a secret component to the blind eye that can’t be discovered.”

PRICE, THOUGH, BELIEVES something is going on.

“Maybe I should cut one in half,” he said. “I am amazed by the amount of home runs and I don’t think we can just say it is because of the drop-off in pitching quality? I mean, we call guys up and they hit home runs, they hit 25 home runs in 60 games (LA’s Clay Bellinger). We say, ‘Oh, well, they’re just better now.’ I think there is a weirdness to this season. I am fascinated by the number of baseballs being hit out of the park.

“Guys who were one-time journeymen or bench players all of a sudden have 11 or 12 home runs in a limited role (Scooter Gennett?). Guys are totally re-creating themselves into home run hitters.

“The game is not that easy, but at the same token they go out and do it. Everybody throws 100 (miles an hour) and everybody hits 25 homers in 60 games. It is just not uncommon any more.”

NOW FOR THE JACKASS portion of this report: Joey Votto buying Zack Cozart a donkey if he makes the All-Star team, which it appears he will.

Votto and Cozart appeared on MLB network with Kevin Millar and Chris Rose Wednesday afternoon and Votto was wearing a donkey costume, complete with a donkey head.

Cozart loves donkeys and said Wednesday when asked if he should have asked Votto for a Lamborghini (which Votto drives), “I shot too low. Next time I’ll shoot higher. But maybe a donkey is my Lamborghini.”

COZART SHOOK HIS head and said, “Who would have thought this donkey thing would take off the way it has. It has gone crazy,” said Cozart, who wore a t-shirt on the TV show given to him by Votto on which was printed, “Life is Better With a Donkey.”

His wife, Chelsea, was dead set against Cozart carting home a donkey, but Zack said, “She is OK with it now because she wants me to make the All-Star team. And I’ve had a lot of offers in Cincinnati to take care of it. I don’t have a spot for it, but I just got to have if and it is an excuse to wiggle my way into having a little piece of land in Cincinnati.”

And what will the donkey be named? “I don’t know, I don’t have a name for it,” he said. “Joey said he wants the fans to name it. I like just basic human names, Tom or something. It kind of took off way more than I imagined. Any interview I have it is about how I’ve played, the injury and then on to donkeys.”

Oh, yeah, the injury. Cozart was eligible to come off the disabled list Wednesday and he did all the on-field work the last two days and is pronounced ready.

But manager Bryan Price kept him out of the lineup Wednesday and said, “He’ll be ready in the next 24 t0 48 hours.”

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