By HAL McCOY
DAYTON — For those among the 8,837 who risked frost-bite and numb cheeks Saturday afternoon in Fifth Third Field it was worth it if they were there to witness what some of the newest Cincinnati Reds can do.
They saw some uplifting pitching by rookie Amir Garrett. They saw some timely and productive hitting by newcomer Patrick Kivlehan. They some some power from Rule V catcher Stuart Turner. And they saw a snapshot glimpse of the future from Futures player Nick Sensel.
The Reds won the game, 5-1, their last exhibition game before Monday’s opener in Great American Ball Park against the Philadelphia Phillies.
GARRETT, THE 6-FOOT-5 LEFTHANDER and former St. John’s University basketball player, makes his major league debut next week in St. Louis, a daunting debut. His final tuneup was Saturday — three innings, no runs, three hits, no walks, three strikeouts.
Garrett and those who followed him to the mound were supported by the long ball — solo home runs by Scott Schebler and Kivlehan and a three-run home run in the sixth by Turner that broke a 1-1 tie.
“I was real happyy with Amir,” said Reds manager Bryan Price. “We’ve talked a lot about the development of some of these young players as they come up. Amir came in today and threw a really nice fastball/changeup combination and a slider to the leftties. The evolution of his changeup is a big part of his development into a strong, major league pitcher.”
GARRETT HAS WORKED DILIGENTLY on the changeup in the bullpen and he and catcher Tucker Barnhart used it often durng his three innings.
“I’ve prepared myself for this season and I’ve prepared myself for this moment,” Garrett said of his insertion into the rotation. “I worked my butt off this off-season and we’ll we how it plays out this season.”
Of his debut in St. Louis, Garrett said, “I’ve gone over it and over it in my head, but I don’t know what it is going to be like. Of course, I’m, going to be nervous and I’m going to be excited but I’ll go out there and try to have fun.”
Try, though, is the key word. It will be in St. Louis and that’ no free bus tour for even a veteran pitcher. “I played basketball in front of a lot of people and I’m used to it so maybe I won’t be as jacked up as I would be. I’ll try to settle down, talk to myself with a little meditation and go out there. I know it will be crazy at the Cardinals stadium, but, we’ll see.”
TURNER, SELECTED BY THE REDS from the Minnesota Twins for $50,000 in the Rule V draft at the winter meetings, must remain on the 25-man roster or be offered back to the Twins for $25,000. With catcher Devin Mesoraco still scraping and knocking rust off his body from two years of mostly inactivity, Turner is on the roster for now. But what happens when Mesoraco returns?
That’s something for the Reds to concern themselves down the road. Price appreciates Turner’s attributes for now and for what he can do during Mesoraco’s absence.
“We love his defensive components,” said Price. “He has to be able to run a game from behind home plate, call a game, be able to receive and block and throw, which he has done.
“The offense has been a bonus,” Price added. “We knew he was a guy who hit left handed pitching well in his short minor league career. But, here, he has hit everybody well this spring. We’re thrilled he is with the team and he’ll have an opportunity to play when Tucker doesn’t start.”
KIVLEHAN WAS ONE OF THE most productive offensive players this spring and continued it Saturday with a single in front of Turner’s three-run homer and his own homer in the eighth inning to put an exclamation point on the day’s activities.
“Kivlehan has been a boost in a number of ways for us,” said Price. “The home run power and the extra base hits stand out. But he has given us a lot of good at bats with two strikes. Beyond the home run today, he grinds out an at bat with a single to start that rally that resulted in Turner’s home run in a 1-1 game.
“He brings a lot to the table other than a kid who brings some power,” Price added. “He swings the bat well, he can play four different positions, he throws well and is very athletic. He provide us with a lot of different options off the bench.”
ON THE OTHER SIDE, Futures third baseman Nick Sensel delivered a couple of hits, not unexpected from the team’s No. 1 draft pick last June and the No 2 overall pick in baseball.
“He swung the bat good,” said Price. “He had two strikes on him and smoked a ball down the right field line for a double and a base hit to center field. He made some nice plays at third, too. He went into foul ground and made a nice play near the bullpen. Stole a base. He is an impressive kid and this shouldn’t surprise us. He was the second pick in the draft. It was nice to come here to see him play and to see him perform.”
And beginning Monday, Price gets to see his team perform for real, on center stage. No more rehearsals, no more Off Broadway in Peoria and Dayton. It is time to Get Real.