By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — For Cincinnati Reds fans who despise and detest the St. Louis Cardinals, something Scooter Gennett said Friday afternoon at his locker might be considered heresy.
Gennett, though, has more than earned the admiration and respect of Reds fans for what he is doing on the field, so they’ll probably issue him a hall pass on this one.
Gennett was talking about his All-Star experience and that one of the best parts was the interplay with his teammates, “Guys you play against but never get to really know, never get to talk to, never get to pick their brains.”
When asked who was the most impressive, without hesitation he said, “Yadier Molina.”
What did he say? Yadier Molina, the St. Louis Cardinals catcher who is booed lustily every time he peers out of the dugout at Great American Ball Park, a response that dates back eight years to when he and Reds second baseman at the time, Brandon Phillips, had a home plate dust-up?
“For me, it was very cool to talk to Yadier,” he said. “He is a Hall of Famer and to be able to talk to him and laugh about certain things that have go on when we’ve played each other was special,” said Gennett. “To be able to pick his brain, how he plays the game – that was really cool because he has a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge. There are reasons why he has won in the World Series and played on a lot of winning teams. It’s how he plays — the effort and focus he puts into the game and the way he respects the game.”
IT IS STILL UNCLEAR, still way up in the air, as to whether Gennett still be wearing a Cincinnati Reds uniform after the non-waiver trade deadline July 31.
The issue was addressed Friday afternoon by interim manager Jim Riggleman, who has led the team to a 20-10 record since June 10.
“When you dig yourself a hole the way we did to start the season (7-28), there is more of a tendency to subtract when you get close to the trade deadline,” he said. “I think the energy and enthusiasm this team is playing with now, well, I know our ownership and front office sees it.
“There is a general feeling that, ‘Let’s keep this team together as much as possible,’” he added. “Our players sense that and are looking forward to these next couple of weeks to maybe put a stamp on that as opposed to selling. Let’s play good enough to force our front office to say, ‘You know what, let’s leave it together.’”
Gennett would love to stay, love to continue to be a major chunk of the huge turnaround with goals of climbing out of last place and perhaps scrambling to .500.
“We’ve expected to play like this since day one,” said Gennett. “However, we got off to a rough start. We haven’t lost any confidence or lost any belief in one another and how we can win and compete every days. It is so nice that the last month-and-a-half has been that way, coming to the ballpark excited to play and compete. It is how everybody in this clubhouse feels.
“Earlier in the season it was harder to feel that way and losing is never fun,” he added. “The past few weeks guys are starting to believe what we can do with the players on the roster right now. We’re not going to change anything — play hard and believe we can win every game and let our talents and skills take over. Ultimately, our team will be how it is supposed to be over 162 games. We’ve turned it around and we’ve done that well. There is still time (66 games) to do some pretty cool stuff.”
IMMEDIATELY AHEAD is The Battle for the Bottom, the Reds and the Pittsburgh Pirates. They are last and next-to-last, with the Pirates 4 1/2 games ahead of the Reds. But both teams start the post-All-Star season on the upbeat.
The Pirates, in fact, won nine of their last 10 before the break, including six in a row and the last five against the Milwaukee Brewers, five losses that knocked the Brew Crew out of first place.
Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle was asked if a team on an extreme positive roll can turn to ice during an extended period of no games, four days off during the All-Star break.
“We don’t give the players enough credit,” said Hurdle. “They do this. They’ve done this before. They love the feel they have when they walk out of the clubhouse to the field. They want more of that.
“You get that feeling when you’ve won six in a row and you go back out and focus on the things you were focused into, one pitch at a time,” he added. “Play 27 outs on defense. You find ways to get leadoff hitters on base. Move people from second base, scored them from third, throw first-pitch strikes – all the absolutes of the game you just plug back into. Once you are off four days, there is an eagerness to get back. The season is not over. There is a lot out there for you.”
And of his team’s series with the Reds, a team for which he played briefly in left field in 1982, Hurdle said, “We’ve been able in our last 10 games to play our best ball since early May in all facets. You just take the break we just had professionally. There was a break coming, we played well to the finish and there is a job to do now, to go out there and re-ignite tonight. Our guys are hungry and want to play well and you have to play well to play well. We’re playing a team now (the Reds) that has been playing very well for an extended period of time. That makes it much more interesting and much more challenging.”
AFTER AN OUTSTANDING performance on a rehab assignment early this week for the Class AAA Louisville Bats, Homer Bailey is returning to Cincinnati. And he is immediately returning to the rotation.
Bailey will start Tuesday night’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals. For the immediate future, Sal Romano is in the bullpen. But Romano in the bullpen may not be permanent. He is on stand-by duty the next couple days in the bullpen, but if he is not overly-used he could start Wednesday’s game against the Cardinals.
“The report on what Homer did in his last start was real positive,” said Riggleman. “He had a lot of strikeouts. In the bigger picture, you just want to get outs, but he wasn’t getting many strikeouts before he went on the disabled list. So maybe this indicates he has fine-tuned a put away pitch to get strike three.”