CINCINNATI — Bryan Price watched the first part of the Cal-Ole Miss football game Saturday night with double interest.
First of all, Cal is his alma mater. Secondly, his Cincinnati Reds shortstop Zack Cozart played at Mississippi and lives, but mostly dies, with Ole Miss football. And catcher Stuart Turner played at Mississippi.
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One of the first things Price said Sunday morning with a hearty laugh was, “Both Cozart and Turner were inspired this morning by the Cal fight song I texted to them.
“I watched the first eight or ten minutes of it because I know I’m coming early to the park today (Sunday),” said Price. “I wasn’t going to stay up watching it until 1:30, so I went to bed.
“But, like all people my age, I had to get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night,” he added. “So I sneaked my phone out and tried to be real quiet and asked, ‘Cal football score.’” It told Price that Cal won, 27-16.
“I was so jacked, I couldn’t wait to get up,” he said. “I couldn’t wait any longer than 8:40.”
That’s when Price sent the Cal fight song and said, “Zack knew he wasn’t playing today so he might sleep in, but I made sure he got up the right way. It was great.”
SPEAKING OF ZACK Cozart, while he rested Sunday morning his place was taken by another Zach, this one spelled with an ‘h.’
Zach Vincej, 26, made his major league starting debut Sunday. It is amazing that he made it past Triple-A, let alone scramble to the majors. He was a 37th-round draft pick out of Pepperdine University, where he was named the top collegiate shortstop in 2012.
Vincej — the ‘j’ is silent, just as his bat mostly has been silent during his minor league career — is the classic good field, no hit infielder.
VINCEJ, THOUGH, HAD A GREAT spring with the Reds and his hitting continues to improve. For example, he hit only. 261 with three homers and 31 RBI in 115 games for the low Class A Dayton Dragons in 2013.
His numbers this season at Class AAA Louisville are eerily similar, but of course he played three levels higher. In 110 games he hit .270 with three homers and 33 RBI.
“He is a what you see is what you get kind of guy,” said Price. “He is very steady. He knows the position at short. He is always in the right place and is accurate with his arm. He is a very good glove guy and he puts the ball in play.
“He is a contact guy who hits to all fields and has become a better offensive player than the first few years in his career,” Price said. “He is starting to do some good things offensively.”
And because Pepperdine doesn’t play football, Vincej won’t ever be awakened by a phone call from his manager with the Cal fight song blaring in his ear.
DREW STOREN WILL UNDERGO Tommy John surgery in the near future and it couldn’t have come at a worse time for the 30-year-old Reds relief pitcher.
He was set for free agency after the season and the market is zero for a guy who won’t be able to pitch in 2018 and who was less than stellar this season — 4-2, 4.45 earned run average, 58 games, 54 2/3 innings, 23 walks, 48 strikeouts, seven homers.
The REDS SIGNED HIM last winter to a one-year $3 million contract.
“It is something in this game you try to stay away from, but with anything in this game you have to see it for what it is and make the most of the situation,” he said.
It will be extremely difficult for him to find anything positive about this, but that’s Storen’s nature.
“I got my elbow scoped (arthroscopic surgery) in 2012 so any time you let them go in there to do some work you are opening yourself up to possible issues,” he said. “I’ve tried everything I could to keep it the way it is. I started out the year and felt great but I started to run out of gas and my last outing in Pittsburgh (September 1) I felt a grab and I knew it was time to say something.”
Storen agrees his arm and elbow have been through a lot and he has thrown a lot and had some issues, “But the positive thing is that I’m only 30. That’s the way I have to look at it, the silver lining. I’ll come back and be stronger than ever.
“Career-wise, this is not ideal,” he said. “But everybody goes through this stuff and you have to make the most of it and not sit around and feel sorry for yourself,” he said.
BILLY HAMILTON WAS eligible to come off the disabled list Sunday, but did not, even though the splint came off his left thumb.
He may not be able to swing a bat or catch a ball, but there is nothing wrong with his feet. So Price was asked if Hamilton might come off the DL and be a pinch-runner.
“Potentially, but I have to get clearance on that from Dr. Tim Kremchek,” said Price. “He is a head-first (sliding) guy. Is he capable of going in feet first? He is.”
So if he is used as a pinch-runner, his instruction will be, “No head-first, feet-first only.” Price did say he expects Hamilton back in the lineup before the season ends, “And he will impact the game at some point in time.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Almost all I have in the bullpen right now is young minor league starting pitchers, that’s all I have almost exclusively. You will see that mixed bag and they will pitch.” — manager Bryan Price.