By HAL McCOY
CINCINNTATI — Eugenio Suarez was standing in front of Adam Duvall’s locker when Duvall looked up and asked, “How about his fastball?”
Duvall was quizzing Suarez on the velocity and movement of Milwaukee’s starting pitcher Friday night, Chase Anderson.
“Don’t worry about it, man,” said Suarez. “You can hit anybody’s fastball.”
Yes, he can. Dangle a high fastball in front of Duvall’s chest and he will dent a red seat deep in the Great American Ball Park’s left field stands.
The strange thing about that is that Duvall was not in Friday’s lineup because it was his turn to sit under manager Jim Riggleman’s four-man outfield rotation, a methodology that seems to be working.
“As I look back on it, coming out of spring training this was what we had (four outfielders) and we labeled it,” said Riggleman. “We would have been better off to tell them, ‘Hey, just go look at the lineup and see if you are in there.’
“Most clubs are playing four and five outfielders and everybody gets their at bats,” he added. “But when we put that label on it, a four-man rotation, guys felt like, ‘Wow, I’m not playing every day.’ But the days they don’t start they generally get into the game. I think they have made that adjustment and I can just see a bounce in their steps indicating that they’ve accepted it and it is what is best for the ball club.”
Duvall smiled, though, when was asked if he accepts rotating in the outfield with Jesse Winker, Scott Schebler and Billy Hamilton. When asked his reaction when told about it, he hesitated for a few seconds and said, “Uhhhhhhh, huh. Huh. Uh, I wasn’t too excited about it. Yeah, I wasn’t excited about it at all.”
How about now. Has he accepted it?
“I don’t think I’ll ever accept it,” he said honestly. “Yeah, you know, no, no (laughter). You know, I want to play and I want to play every day. As a competitor you have to want to play every day.”
About a month ago Riggleman considered scrapping the four-man theme, extracting Winker from the rotation and giving most of the playing time to Duvall, Hamilton and Schebler.
Maybe it was motivation, an I’ll-show-you attitude from Winker, but he quickly asserted himself and pushed his way back into the rotation. Over the last nine games he is hitting .455 (10-for-22) with three homers, 12 RBI and nine walks. He leads all National League rookies with 40 walks and is second in hits with 60.
Riggleman doesn’t know Winker’s mind-set, his inner thinking, but when asked about motivation when he was removed from the rotation, Riggleman said, “That could be the case. There was never any intention to sit him down for any length of time. We just wanted to see if we could get a couple of the other guys hot for a while. He wasn’t going to sit for a long time.
“I looked at the situation closely and at that point we were getting a whole bunch of off days,” he added “If I sat him for three or four games and then have the off days coming up it would be like starting all over again for him. So we abandoned that pretty quickly.”
If anybody was to sit, it would be Duvall or Hamilton. Duvall is hitting ,202 and Hamilton is hitting .215. Each, though, brings different favors to the party. For Hamilton it is defense. For Duvall it is power and driving in runs.
Despite his .202 average, Duvall has 46 RBI and 12 home runs, two of them grand slams. He has four more RBI than Joey Votto.
“For the most part I’ve been hitting the ball decent,” said Duvall. “I’ve hit the ball hard but not as many as I’d like have found holes. With that being said, I’ve been able to drive some runs in and at least help my team along those lines.”
Duvall says he smells blood on the basepaths with teammates out there.
“I love runners on base, I enjoy hitting with runners on base,” he said. “I don’t know if I concentrate more, I really don’t know. I don’t know if it locks me in. It is nothing I do intentionally or I’d do it all the time. I was thinking about it the other day. I’ve always done that, always hit with runners in scoring position. I’ve taken pride in that.”
Riggleman said he has not told any of the four that how they play affects their playing time and said, “We just let them know, ‘You know what? It is a tough puzzle to figure out each day as to who is going to play and who is not. It can look simple at time because somebody is swinging it pretty good and then you look at the other guys who have such defensive skills. Or maybe hits for power or somebody’s on-base percentage is high. We just try to put it all together and they all are getting plenty of playing time and by the end of the year they will all have played a lot.”
DISABLED PITCHER HOMER Bailey took a forward step on his rehab assignment Thursday for Class AAA Louisville after a couple of rough-around-the-edges outings.
“He was much better — seven innings, 100 pitches,” said Riggleman. “I talked to (Louisville pitching coach) Jeff Fassero today and he said it is moving in the right direction. We’ll leave it at that. He is going to start again in five days and hopefully it continues in the right direction.
“They said his velocity was good and he got better as he got deeper into the game instead of losing velocity. He had better fastball command, not where he wants it to be, but better than it has been. All the signs were positive.”
Milwaukee’s Eric Thames has faced Reds pitcher Amir Garrett three times and has hit three home runs. The Reds might want to lock Garrett in a closet when Thames is at the plate.
Reds pitcher Anthony Desclafani hit a grand slam home run and the next day pitcher Michael Lorenzen hit a pinch-hit home run. That’s the first time in baseball history that a pitcher hit a grand slam and in the next game a pitcher hit a pinch-hit home run.