By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — Out of necessity and out of curiosity, Patrick Kivlehan was in the Cincinnati Reds lineup Saturday afternoon against the Chicago Cubs.
Because Billy Hamilton, Scott Schebler and Tyler Holt all are ailing, Reds manager Bryan Price stuck the 26-year-old Kivlehan in right field.
Kivlehan’s audition was not a strong one, but the Reds put up a strong performance and stopped Cubs left hander Jon Lester from winning his 20th game. And it might have ruined his Cy Young Award chances.
Lester hadn’t given up more than two earned run in any start since the All-Star break, but the Reds reached him for five in a 7-4 victory that ended Lester’s regular season with a 19-5 record and a 2.44 earned run average.
MEANWHILE, ROOKIE TIM ADLEMAN held the Cubs to three runs and six hits over five innings to level his record a 4-4. He pitched his way out of a bases loaded dilemma with two outs in the fifth inning when he had a one-run lead by coaxing a fly ball to shallow right from Ben Zobrist, who hit two home runs Friday night.
Zobrist hit a solo home run off Michael Lorenzen in the eighth inning, a harmless one.
Eugenio Suarez furnished the offensive punch with a two-run home run into the right field corner in the second and a sacrifice fly, all three RBI against Lester. And, of course, The Human Hitting Machine, Joey Votto, had three more hits to push his average to .326. Jose DeJesus Jr. had two hits and scored three runs.
IT WAS JUST THE SECOND DAY in a Cincinnati uniform for Kivlehan after the Reds claimed him a few days ago off waivers from the San Diego Padres.
So far this season Kivlehan has worn more different uniforms than a quick-change artist and lived most of the summer out of a suitcase.
The Rutgers University graduate was Seattle’s No. 4 draft pick in 2011 and his baseball itinerary has been something like the old Johnny Cash song, “I’ve Been Everywhere.”
And here is his litany of stops along the way to Cincinnati just this season:
“I was with Seattle the last couple of years and they put me on their roster in November,” he said. “I was traded to Texas a week later and I was with the Ranger in spring training. They sent me to Triple-A Round Rock for the first couple of months.
“At the end of May, I was designated for assignment and got traded back to Seattle, but then I got designated by the Mariners on August 1 and claimed by the San Diego Padres. They put me in El Paso (AAA) for a awhile and I went up to San Diego for a week,” he said.
THAT WAS ON AUGUST 20 and he was in the Padres lineup for his major league debut that night, playing left field against the Arizona Diamondbacks. On his second major league at-bat, Kivlehan hit a 464-foot upper deck home run in Petco Park off D-Backs left hander Robbie Ray.
“I got the call and I didn’t really sleep much after that,” said Kivlehan of his call-up. “We had a 4:30 (a.m.) bus and drove to Denver and I flew out here (San Diego) from there.” Kivlehan had hit 80 home runs in five minor league seasons.
Amazingly, Kivlehan played three years of football at Rutgers and didn’t play baseball until his senior year. And, no, he didn’t want to talk about football on this day (Ohio State 52, Rutgers 0).
“The Padres sent me back down to El Paso after about a week and I finished the year there, playing in the Triple-A champioship,” he said. El Paso, known as the Chihuahuas, won the Pacific Coast League championship, but lost the Triple-A title to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre of the International League.
THE DAY AFTER THE LOSS to S/W-B, Kivlehan was designated for assignment once again and two days later the Reds claimed him. Because he played both in the minors and the majors this year, when the Reds claimeld him after the minor league season ended they were required by rule to put Kivlehan on the major league roster.
So here he is.
“Yep, here we are,” he said. “I was living out of a suitcase all year. When I was with El Paso and the Padres I just lived in a hotel and never unpacked. I never bothered trying to find a place to live.”
As for his seemingly day-to-day uniform changes, he laughed and said, “I don’t know what the record is for changing organization is one year, but that has to be close (Seattle, Texas, Seattle again, San Diego, Cincinnati),” he said. “I can’t be too far off.”
Why would the Reds claim a 26-year-old outfield during the last week of the season? They did the exacxt same thing last year, claiming outfielder Tyler Holt during the last week from the Cleveland Indians and he has been with the Reds all season.
“Our scouts liked him,” said manager Bryan Price. “He got on the radar for us, from my understanding, when we were scouting him in the Arizona Fall League a couple of years ago. The scouts like his swing, his ability, his athleticism. He’s got some big, raw power. We’ve heard enough good reports on him to take a shot at making a waiver claim.”
IT WASN’T A MEMORABLE DAY FOR his first start with the Reds, not like his San Diego debut. He was 0 for 2 with a pair of strikeouts. And in the fourth inning with two outs and two on, he took two steps in on a line drive hit by Jason Heyward. It sailed over Kivlehan’s head for a tw-run double and then Heyward scored on a single by Javier Baez.
Adleman, though, was able to pitch through it as the Reds beat the Cubs for only the fourth time in 18 games. And though the list is lengthy, Adleman has pushed his name onto that list of potential starters next season, or at least a member of the bullpen.
“He has pitched his way into being viewed as a major-league pitcher,” said Price. “That’s where you have to start. That’s what we were trying to define with Brandon FInnegan. We think he is a big leaguer, but we’re not sure where he is best served.
“So, Tim is absolutely a guy who can compete as a starting pitcher,” Price added. “His curveball has to continue to improve. And he is working on another pitch. He just competes.
“He gets some funky swings on his pitches, just like Dan Straily does,” said Price. “It is not overpowering, but they get that hesitation in his delievery, or whatever it is, and he gets some awkward swings at this stuff. And he is willing to throw the ball over the plate. That, to me, more than anything — well, it sounds simple, but it’s not. He has certainly put himself into the conversation for the rotation.”
ADLEMAN KNOWS IT IS OUT OS his control and says, “I feel good. The team didn’t win as many as we’d like. All in all I don’t feel I have too much to complain about. I’m just happy to be on this team right now and be able to contribute every fifth day. It has been good.”
About his future, he said, “It is so hard to say. With all the guys coming back next year there are a lot of quality arms, quality players in this room. Fortunately for me, I don’t have to make any decisions. I just pitch when I’m told and where I’m told in whatever role I’m told. What is going to happen next year is out of my control.”
He broke into a wan smile when he was told about Price’s evaluation and said, “That’s always good to hear, always good to have the support of your manager. You definitely want to get on his good side by helping the team any way you. It is a good thing to hear from him.”