CINCINNATI — As Scooter Gennett pulled on his baseball socks Tuesday afternoon, he glanced at locker neighbor Joey Votto and said, “It’s my dog’s birthday today and I told him I’d hit a home run for him.”
It isn’t quite like Babe Ruth telling the kid in the hospital he would hit a home run for him, but it is typical Scooter Gennett.
He will use anything for motivation, including his Golden Doodle, Leo, “Who is two-years-old and looks like a lion.”
And guess what Gennett did in the third inning Tuesday night against the Chicago Cubs. Yes, he hit one for Leo, a solo home run that gave the Reds a 3-0 lead in a game they lost, 13-9,
THE BASEBALL WORLD SEEMS astounded that the diminutive Gennett has 21 home runs, four in one game, and three grand slams. And until the All-Star break he didn’t populate the regular lineup for the Cincinnati Reds.
“What Gennett is doing is unusual and it is sensational,” said manager Bryan Price. “He had enough of a history to create an expectation. But he came to us at 26, so he was at the point where you can’t expect him to improve on what he’s done the first three years of his career.
“But what he has done for us is extraordinary and certainly unpredictable,” said Price with a long pause. And then he added, “It is now turning into the norm.”
AND THAT’S SOMETHING extra that Gennett carries. He isn’t shocked. He isn’t even surprised. There may not be much of him, but there is a lot in him.
“Sometimes the stars don’t line up for you,” he said. “You get hurt, or somebody comes in on a trade and you have to take a back seat. But I knew if I kept working hard and getting better each year that ultimately I would be in the position I am in now.”
For the Reds, who picked him up on waivers from the Milwaukee Brewers late this spring, Gennett has gone from fill-in bench player to indispensable. And the Brewers, who led the NL Central for much of the season, are struggling and one reason is that they are missing a second baseman.
“When you work hard, when you believe something good will happen, when you are willing to put in the work that is necessary, it has to come back to you. The world has to give it back to you.”
IN ADDITION TO HIS SIZE Gennett has had other hurdles to leap and he has done it like Edwin Moses.
“I started my career in Milwaukee in a platoon situation and had to battle out of that,” he said. His battle was with Reds-killer Rickey Weeks, but Gennett eventually survived.
“Then I had a tough season last year with my oblique and the Brewers decided they could do without me and I got a fresh opportunity with the Reds,” he said. “I’ve put myself into position with the Reds where they had to put me in there.
“So all that hard work, all the time I spent getting better every day is now paying off.”
YOU-CAN’T-DO-THIS IS something Gennett heard his entire baseball life, even before high school.
“Oh, yeah,” he said. “When I was growing up I always heard, ‘You’re too small, you better think about doing something else.’ But those things just fueled me to work that much harder and prove people wrong. I was hitting home runs with a wood bat in high school, so I knew I had the power to hit home runs. It was a matter of letting it happen naturally.”
While other people shake their heads and ask how Gennett can hit homers and drive in runs the way he is, he shrugs and says, “I always thought I could do this. But when you are not in there every day and you are battling for a spot, it adds more pressure.
“Sometimes things don’t work out when you are trying too hard to prove what you can do instead of going out there and playing and let things happen naturally,” he added.
The chance finally arose with the Reds and Gennett grasped it like a rope dangling from a cliff.
AS EXPECTED, PITCHER Scott Feldman joined the legion of Reds pitchers on the disabled list, actually rejoining it. He was on the DL with a sore knee and came off and tried to pitch.
It didn’t work and he is back on the DL, his season over. He underwent arthrosopic surgery on his right knee Tuesday.
The Reds picked him up last winter to give the projected young pitching staff some stability. He pitched this season on a one-year $2.3 million contract.
PRICE WOULD LOVE to have a healthy Feldman return for 2018.
“There would have to be some reliability with his health,” said Price. “He is a tremndous competitor. He stayed on the field longer than he should have because he wanted to compete. He is good with the young guys and he sets a good precedence with how hard he works and with his professionalism.
“The results were good when he was healthy, so I’m pulling for him to be OK so he can be an option for us next year,” said Price.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
Guess who said this after the Reds had a Monday off and returned to action Tuesday night?
“Days off mess up my life. It screws up my rhythm.”
Yes, none other than Joey Votto, who not only hates days the Reds don’t play, he hates to take a game off — and seldom does.