Price gets the job he wanted
So, you wanted to be a big league manager, and you wanted a job with the Cincinnati Reds.
Well, be careful what you ask for because you might get it.
Bryan Price wanted the job and he got it. He also gets the reality of what it means to deal with factors out of your control.
Price — the first manager in baseball history whose first name is Bryan — takes over for Dusty Baker who was fired after the Reds’ late season swoon to close out the 2013 year including a one-and-done loss to Pittsburgh in the Wild Card playoff game.
First, the Reds couldn’t’ re-sign centerfielder and leadoff hitter Shin-Soo Choo. But that seemed to be no problem since the speedy and electrifying Billy Hamilton was projected as ready to take over for Choo.
However, Hamilton hasn’t hit against major league pitcher for an entire season and batted just .256 in Class AAA last year. He does know how to bunt, something Drew Stubbs could never wrap his head around.
This one could work out.
All-Star second baseman Brandon Phillips called owner Phil Castellini “a liar” and that didn’t sit well. There were reports Castellini told general manager Walt Jocketty to trade Phillips.
The Reds have denied there were any attempts to trade Phillips, but usually where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
Hey Bryan, have fun with that giant bruised ego this season.
By the way, how are you going to handle him when he gets picked off first base again because he was talking to an opposing player and then laughs about it?
For advice, you can always call Lou Piniella for advice. For results, see Rob Dibble.
Jocketty didn’t make any major moves to improve the Reds’ roster. He felt it was a good team that just needed a stronger bench.
Jocketty addressed the bench problem and added versatile Skip Schumaker and catcher Brayan Pena. Unfortunately, Price developed a headache when Schumaker suffered a dislocated shoulder last week and will miss about a month to start the season.
That problem only helped magnify the other injuries already facing Price.
Prior to Schumaker’s injury, Reds’ ace reliever Aroldis Chapman suffered a frightening and serious injury when he was struck in the face with a batted ball.
Chapman suffered facial fractures and a broken nose that will sideline him between 4-to-8 weeks physically. Who knows what kind of mental affects.
With Jonathan Broxton and Sean Marshall not ready to start the season due to lingering injuries suffered last season, Price begins the season without a bonafide closer.
Instead, the Reds’ new manager will utilize a bullpen by committee. JJ. Hoover is considered to have closer-type talent and Sam LeCure could get the nod in certain situations.
Pitching is the Reds’ strong suit. The team has been riding their starting pitching and bullpen the past three years and injuries have created a lot of question marks.
But it’s not just the bullpen that has taken a hit. Mat Latos — probably the team’s best starter — is coming off two minor surgeries and will start the season on the disabled list.
Homer Bailey appeared to come into his own last season but he has been slowed by a groin injury. Innings-eater and reliable Bronson Arroyo was allowed to walk and his job was given to Tony Cingrani.
Alfredo Simon was effective in the bullpen but will fill-in for Latos. There are more questions about Simon’s ability to pitch as a starter than his trial (and acquittal) for involuntary manslaughter a few years ago.
And let’s not overlook the return of Ryan Ludwick who tore his shoulder on Opening Day last year and missed almost the entire season.
In 2012, Ludwick hit .275 with 26 home runs and 80 runs batted in, his best season since 2008 when he hit .299 with 37 home runs and had 104 RBIs for St. Louis.
Ludwick has been up and down during his career and Chris Heisey — who changed his batting stance — has outplayed and out-hit Ludwick during the spring, creating yet another tough decision for Price.
If Price can overcome the obstacles and mold this Reds team, it could mean that the Cincinnati fans are getting exactly what they have been asking for the past 24 years.
A world championship.
Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune