CINCINNATI — A tall, dark man carrying a travel bag walked into the Cincinnati Reds clubhouse Saturday morning, a stranger to most of the young players.
He wasn’t a stranger to Scooter Gennett, who jumped from his chair and said to the man, “Yo, you just couldn’t stay away from me, could you? You had to be with me.”
The man is Yovani ‘Yo’ Gallardo, a pitcher the Reds signed after he was released last week by the Milwaukee Brewers.
“And I’ll tell you what, he isn’t as old as he looks,” Gennett said with a smile. “He has a lot of innings left in that arm.”
Gallardo, 32, spent several seasons as Gennett’s teammate in Milwaukee and Scooter couldn’t be happier to see him slip into Reds uniform No. 31.
“Same ol’ Scooter,” said Gallardo after Gennett banged four hits on Opening Day. “He hits the ball all over the place, busting his butt out of the box and running hard.”
Gallardo has spent most of his 11 years in the majors as a starter — 298 appearances, 289 starts. His last stop was Seattle last season where he made 22 starts and six bullpen appearances, posting a 5-10 record with a 5.72 earned run average.
He returned to Milwaukee this spring but didn’t make the team and the Brewers released him. For now, with the Reds, he will work out of the bullpen.
“He will throw strikes and he can swing the bat, too,” said Gennett. “He has a couple of home runs in this ball park (who doesn’t?). He has the veteran leadership and he will be great with the younger pitchers and with the Spanish-speaking players, as well (Gallardo was born in Mexico). It is a great pickup.
“Bullpen or starting, you are going to get the same guy, the same effort, the same focus,” Gennett added. “He’ll show the same preparation and the same work ethic. That’s why he has been around the game as long as he has.”
Gallardo said he had other teams call after his release, but he liked the young talent on the Reds.
“There is a lot of young talent in this clubhouse,” said Gallardo. “The seem to play the game hard up until the last out. I’m all-in to help out any way I can. They can hit, these guys can hit. I’ve seen it and a lot of other pitchers have seen it. And I am familiar with his division.
“I pitched out of the bullpen the second half of last season (in Seattle) and in spring training this year,” he said. “I got a taste of it so I’m up for anything and I told the skipper (manager Bryan Price) that.”
Great American Ball Park is not foreign territory to Gallardo and he said, “I spent seven years in Milwaukee and came here quite a bit. So I’ll feel comfortable because it is a familiar place.”
Great American Ball Park is a pitcher’s boneyard, not an easy place to keep the baseball inside the walls.
Gallardo smiled and said, “Hey, I pitched in Milwaukee for seven years. Some people consider Miller Park a pitcher’s ballpark, but not quite, as we all know. And I pitched in Texas, another hitter’s park.”
Price said the team’s scouts liked what they saw of Gallardo this spring in his one, two and three-inning stints. They like his stuff and liked what he did last year in Seattle in the bullpen.
“And we needed something because of what has happened, losing Michael Lorernzen and David Martinez. Another experienced pitcher in the bullpen seemed to be appealing to the club,” said Price.
“He is an unflappable guy and you can never read his emotions,” said Price. “He is a seasoned, experienced, veteran guy. And he can swing the bat and has hurt us as much with his bat as he did with his arm. With the signing of Jared Hughes and Hernandez, we got more of a veteran feel in our bullpen.
“You need to have this veteran experience for our young players to learn from,” said Price. “Not just our relievers, but some of our starters can learn from Yovani as well.”
Price, though, would not define a specific role for Gallardo, or any of his bullpenners.
“Right now, all those guys pitch when we need them,” said Price “We don’t like to define roles. I don’t want too much role definition. I just want guys ready, chomping at the bit to come in when we need them. We have a selfless bunch and we want to keep it that way. So he’ll pitch when I need him to pitch.
“Gallardo is a pro and I’ve received some great feed back from people who have had him. He is a pro from a competitive standpoint with great character, so I think we got a good one there.”
A veteran American League scout said he saw Gallardo at Seattle late last season and his evaluation was, “He wasn’t very good. He is all over the place and his mechanics fall apart.”
PRICE’S FOUR-HEADED outfield was different in Game Two from Opening Day. On Opening Day it was Jesse Winker in left, leading off, Billy Hamilton in center, batting ninth, and Scott Schebler in right. Adam Duvall was on the bench.
On Saturday it was Winker in right, leading off again, Schebler in center and Duvall in left. Hamilton was on the bench after going 0 for 4 with three strikeouts on Opening Day. Winker was 0 for 3 with three strikeouts and a walk.
“Part of of this is match-up and part of it is rotation stuff,” said Price. “It will be a different look tomorrow. I’m just trying to get everybody in there to get some playing time right now. This is not the end-all, be-all.”
TO MAKE ROOM on the 40-man roster for Gallardo, the Reds designated catcher Stuart Turner for assignment, which means any team can sign him. Strangely, as a Rule 5 pick before last season, the Reds had to keep Turner on the 25-man roster all season or offer him back to Minnesota, the team from which he was drafted by the Reds.
So Turner, who seldom played last season occupied a spot on the 25-man roster all season, so the Reds could keep him. But one game into the 2018 season they dropped him off the roster and probably will lose him.