CINCINNATI — As players, wives and kids sat Sunday morning in the Great American Ball Park Crosley Room for Easter chapel services, the Easter Bunny walked in.
He was warmly greeted until one young girl began crying and screaming, so the Easter Bunny removed his head, revealing his identity to be Cincinnati Reds second baseman Scooter Gennett.
When Gennett played for the Milwaukee Brewers, he was appointed, “That means I was ordered to do it,” to play the Easter Bunny for the kids at spring training.
This time Gennett did it on his own. And in preparation, he ordered the costume off amazon.com and said, “It was supposed to be pink, but it came white, but that’s OK. It served its purpose.”
After the service, Gennett walked into the Cincinnati Reds clubhouse wearing the costume, the bunny head tucked under his arm. Asked to do a TV interview, Gennett said, “I’ll do an interview in the costume after we win.”
As one man in the pressbox said with a laugh, “That might not happen until next Easter.”
Easter Sunday was special for Gennett in that it was his 600th major league game and if he batted four times he would reach 2,000 at bats.
THE REDS HAVE switched bullpens in Great American Ball Park, moving from left center field to the right field corner.
“It makes a lot more sense for us to be closer to our (first base) dugout,” said relief pitcher Jared Hughes. Actually, for Hughes, the bullpen remains the same. The right field ‘pen used to be occupied by the visiting team and Hughes came to Cincinnati for the last six years in a visiting uniform.
“It’s great because I feel comfortable there and I got to know, Webb, the bullpen attendant during my previous visits,” said Hughes.
Manager Bryan Price likes it, but so far it has been a tad confusing. The first time he went to the mound on Opening Day to change pitchers, he pointed toward the left center field bullpen, now occupied by the visitors, and they didn’t feel like coming into a game to pitch for the Reds.
Asked if he found himself looking in the wrong direction for his relief pitchers, Price said, “Yes, yes. I keep looking out toward left center thinking somebody from the Reds is going to run out and I get ambushed from some guy running in from my right.
“For us, it makes sense to have it in right field for proximity to the dugout and the clubhouse,” said Price. “The lighting is better out there and the backdrop is better. The guys say it is harder to see the game from the one in left center.
“There are definite benefits,” he added. “If we have a catcher out there to warm up pitchers and I want him to pinch-hit, it is easier to get to our dugout. Same if pitcher Michael Lorenzen is in the bullpen and we want him to pinch-hit, he doesn’t have to run all the way around the tunnel to get to our dugout.”
Price added that during day games the sun shines directly into the left center bullpen, “And it can really bake you in there.” And last year, after getting baked in the bullpen, the Reds relief pitchers got roasted on the mound.
So why was it the other way around in the first place? When the stadium was designed, the Reds bullpen was supposed to be in right field. But manager Bob Boone complained that from the dugout he couldn’t see the bullpen because the seats down the right field line jut out and blocked his view. He could look straight from the dugout into the left center bullpen. So it was changed — and remained that way until this year.
RELIEF PITCHER/CLOSER Raisel Iglesias was unavailable the first two games because he was on maternity leave. He returned Sunday and was available.
During spring training and a few times last season, Iglesias was used for two or three innings, but Price said he doesn’t want to do that this year. Doing it last year was the product of a young and very bad bullpen.
“Only if our bullpen is a little beat up would we use Iggy for more than one,” said Price. “If we have a game sitting there ready to win, and he is fresh, that is an option. But I’d like to not have that as a vehicle to win games or to get two innings out of Iglesias every time we have a lead.
“We have better bullpen equipment with veterans like Jared Hughes, Kevin Quackenbush, Yovani Gallardo and David Hernandez, when he comes off the disabled list,” said Price. “With Austin Brice, Gallardo, Quackenbush and Amir Garrett, they’ll define themselves as to whether they are better in the middle or give us a break when we need somebody late.”
TYLER MAHLE opens a two-game series against the Chicago Cubs Monday and Price offered a startling story about what he saw and what he said the first time he saw Mahle pitch.
“I was just reflecting on a conversation I had with (pitching coach) Mack Jenkins a year ago during spring training,” said Price. “Tyler came into a game and gave up a three-run homer against the Arizona Diamondbacks in a spring training game in 2017.
“I looked at Mack and said, ‘This guy might be our best pitching prospect on our staff right here,’” said Price. What’s that?
“He pitched one inning and gave up those three runs,” said Price. “But it was apparent with his delivery and his fastball command and his athleticism that this kid has a chance to be something special. He might be That Guy.”