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Top topic for the Reds: a donkey that should be named Zackass

CINCINNATI — There was a donkey named Andy on the Great American Ball Park field before Saturday’s game (enter your wise cracks in this space).

And there were two more donkeys on the concourse before the Cincinnati Reds-Washington Nationals game for the fans to have some interaction with.

None of the three was the donkey Joey Votto will give to Zack Cozart as a gift for making the All-Star team. That donkey, according to Votto, is being trained and won’t make an appearance until after the season.

As for a name, Votto wants the fans to name it and the Reds are staging a contest. My submission is, ‘Zackass,’ and that’s no reflection or aspersions on Cozart.

IS THE DONKEY DISTRACTION good or bad for the Reds? There seems to be more burro babble lately than talk about the Reds and how they are playing, which might be a good thing. They continue to slip deeper into last place in the National League Central, 3 1/2 games behind the fourth-place Pittsburgh Pirates when Saturday’s play began.

Manager Bryan Price doesn’t seem to mind the constant TV talk about the donkey, the donkey tee-shirts his players are wearing, the appearance of live beasts on the playing field.

HECK, DIDN’T MARGE SCHOTT bring elephants on the field for Opening Day and turn her St. Bernardd, Schottzie and Schottzie 02 loose on the field and stage a race between a cheetah and reserve outfielder Billy Bates?

Yes, she certainly did. And remember back in the days of The Big Red Machine they used to have Farmer’s Appeciation Days and bring cows on the field for the players to milk?

They certainly did. So why not donkeys?

“This is fun and let’s have fun while it’s here,” Price said of the Donkey Days of summer. “I remember Morganna (The Kissing Bandit) running across the field kissing players. Morganna? I guess I’m dating myself. But I’d this donkey stuff is in my Top Three or Top Five of funny things I’ve seen in baseball.

“I think it’s great and I think that certain things are over the top for the older generation,” he said. “That’s just how it is. Baseball is very generational. The older generation doesn’t like to see some of the changes that we see in the new generation.

“This, for me, though is just good gamesmanship among teammates,” Price added. “I’ve enjoyed it — enjoyed it every since Joey Votto put it out there.”

So, as long as nobody makes jackasses out of themselves on the field, what’s the harm?

Price remembers his days as pitching coach in Seattle and a mother instructed her son to spread her ashes over Safeco Field when she died.

“Well, they have restrictions about planes flying over Safeco, so he couldn’t get it done,” said Price. “Then one day a guy ran out of the stands into the outfield with a bag and dumped it. It was in the days of the anthrax scare and everyboduy panicked. About six security guards jumped him and pounded his head into the ground. Turns out it was the guy just spreading his mom’s ashes on the field.”

IF ONE CLOSED THEIR eyes while in Washington manager Dusty Baker’s office Saturday, one might think they were in Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price’s office.

For the first 15 minutes of a pre-game press conference, Baker was asked about injury updates. That’s about how it alays goes in Price’s office.

Both Baker and Price have been under injury siege all year. One difference, though. Baker’s team is 53-36 and in first place with a 9 1/2 game lead. Price’s team is 39-50 and in last place, 10 1/2 games out of first place.

The session in Baker’s office was typical, just as it was when he managed the Reds.

He was soft-spoken, as always, wearing his ever-present wrist band on his right wrist and a Fit-Bit on his left hand.

“My wife bought me one of those Apple wrist iPads,” said Baker. “I wore it one day. I was getting texts and e-mails at all hours, including during games. I took it off and told her, ‘All I want is something that tells me the time and counts my steps.’”

Oh, if he could have a few reliable relief pitchers, that would make him happier. The Nationals have the worst bullpen in baseball, as the statistics say, but are still so far in front of second place Atlanta that the Braves need high-powered Naval binoculars to see them.

THE LATEST BASEBALL BULLET taken by Baker was the discovery Saturday that starting pitcher Joe Ross is done for the season and will undergo Tommy John Surgery Wednesday.

In typical fashion, Baker was upbeat about it and said, “I’m convinced he’ll come back stronger and better than ever. A whole bunch of guys have come back from this better, throwing hard and with better mechanics.”

Baker, though, still has 10-game winner Max Scherzer, who started against the Reds Saturday, and nine-game winner Stephen Strasburg, who faces the Reds Monday afternoon.

Scherzer started the All-Star game for the National League and pitched one inning — no runs, one hit, two strikeouts.

“Joe Maddon (National League manager) kept his word,” said Baker. “He told me he would only use Scherzer for one inning.” Baker paused for a quick laugh and said, “Scherzer would make a great closer.”

Baker knows he needs bullpen help, but Scherzer isn’t about to be part of it.

DISABLED CATCHER DEVIN MESORACO was scheduled to do a bullpen to test his shoulder Saturday, but it didn’t happen. And it wasn’t because Mesoraco is not ready for it.

“We didn’t have any pitchers scheduled to do pre-game throwing on the side,” said manager Bryan Price. “We do have clearance to have him in the bullpen to catch during the game. That will be an even better opportunity to see how he is coming along.

“We’ll try to get through this series with the Nationals doing baseball stuff with Devin and then we will re-assess to see if he needs some rehab games to verity that the shoulder is OK. Or we’ll see if he can just be activated. We should know by the end of this series where we stand.”

SO FAR, MANAGER BRYAN Price has been true to his word about finding playing time for Scooter Gennett.

Jose Peraza was not in Saturday’s lineup and when Price was asked if Peraza is OK, he said, “He’s fine. We just have to keep finding ways to get Scooter Gennett in the lineup because he is so productive. That means other guys are going to be getting a lot of days off.”

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“I was Max Scherzer’s first major league pitching coach when we both were in Arizona in 2008, but I don’t think I had a huge impact on him because he already was pretty good.” — Reds manager Bryan Price on Washington All-Star pitcher Max Scherzer.


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