By Hal McCoy
CINCINNATI — There were many disconcerting events on the recent three-city trip by the Cincinnati and that’s always the way when the work sheet says two wins and seven losses.
The most glaring, though, was the way outfielders threw the ball back to the infield with runners scurrying around the basepaths. It was almost as if they took the time to pull out a Sharpie and scribble on the ball, “To whom it may concern,” then heaved it in the general direction of the infield grass.
It was just amazing to watch a baseball thrown by a big leaguer dribbling through the grass in the infield with no defender close to it.
And while left fielder Phillip Ervin was a notorious offender, missing the cutoff man four times on the trip, including overthrowing three cutoff men (shortstop, third baseman, pitcher) with one wild toss, he wasn’t the only offender.
Manager Jim Riggleman, of course, is distraught over what he has seen and plans to use valuable practice time Saturday to work on it, something major league players should have learned in, oh maybe, high school?
Extra work on fundamentals isn’t something special for the Reds these days. Riggleman and the coaches are on the field before batting practice with the players drilling on various facets. Before batting practice Friday, the Reds infielders took a ton of extra ground balls — sort of like the infield practice teams used to take after batting practice in front of the fans, which they no longer do.
Of the outfield miscreants, Riggleman said, “Throughout our outfield lately we have been missing the cutoff man. That’s something easily correctable. No matter who we put out there lately it seems we do it too often.
“We’re giving up the extra 90 feet too often,” he said. “We’ll be out there tomorrow (Saturday) doing it, working on it. We just have to pound it into them, the importance of it. We have to keep the double play in order by hitting the cutoff man and preventing a guy who singles from advancing to second on a throw.
“We need to hit the cutoff man to give him a chance to throw a guy out at home,” Riggleman added. “That one got us in Detroit, and it wasn’t just Phillip. A couple of other guys did the same thing. It got us in Washington, in New York a couple of times, the whole road trip. We have to clean that up.”
Other than the fact Ervin needs a compass or a directional finder to know where to throw the ball, he has been a usable piece during the absence of Jesse Winker and Scott Schebler.
He did hit .391 (9 for 23) on the trip with two homers and seven RBI and is also hitting .391 in 18 appearances since the All-Star break.
“He has played fine,” said Riggleman. “It is a credit to our scouting department and player development people that Ervin was identified as a first-rounder (2013 out of Samford University in Alabama) a few years ago. With some patience and with our minor league development people he has become a pretty good ballplayer.
“He is a guy who gets up there and gives you a real good at bat and runs the bases and plays just fine in the outfield,” Riggleman added.
AFTER THAT MISERABLE outing in New York, the Robert Stephenson Walk-a-Thon, the rotation will not be tinkered with in the immediate future.
Not only is Stephenson remaining in it, the Reds are back to a six-man rotation for the six upcoming home games, three against Arizona and three against Cleveland.
The order of things right now: Anthony DeSclafani, Matt Harvey, Luis Castillo, Homer Bailey, Sal Romano, Robert Stephenson. Riggleman said he met with the team’s upper crust front office after the just-concluded trip and the decision was to stay for now in the six-man.
“For our next six games we are going to run six starters out there,” said Riggleman. “After those six games, there is an off day before the Reds finish the homestand next weekend with three games against San Francisco.
“After that, it might be six again and we just have to see where it is taking us,” said Riggleman. “If it puts too much of a strain on our bullpen we’ll see if there is somebody down there (Louisville or Pensacola) who can come up and help in the bullpen.”
With a six-man rotation, the Reds bullpen has only seven occupants instead of the usual eight or even nine.
“We are not identifying anybody who we want to take out of the rotation, that’s the issue,” said Riggleman. “Homer Bailey is a starter, Anthony DeSclafani is a starter, Matt Harvey is a starter, Sal Romano. . .uh, who am I missing? Luis Castillo is a starter and Stephenson just got here and we want to give him a few chances to start to see what he’s got. We hate to do anything different with him and that’s just where it is right now.”
AFTER MISSING TWO STARTS in New York with the sore knee on which he was hit by a Ryan Madson pitch in Washington, Joey Votto was back in the lineup Friday.
And outfielder Preston Tucker, out two games in New York after fouling a ball off his back foot (left), was cleared to play Friday but was not in the starting lineup.
Scott Schebler? Scott who? Schebler’s shoulder continues to be a problem and he was yanked off his rehab assignment in Louisville before the Reds’ last trip, not because he couldn’t hit, but because he couldn’t throw.
And he didn’t throw at all during the Reds 10-day trip.
“Lately he hasn’t thrown a ball,” said Riggleman. “We just shut him down because it was hurting him in Louisville. He is back in town so we’ll see what the communication is between him and trainer Steve Baumann as to when he wants to start throwing again.”
Schebler has been on the disabled list since July 18.