By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — When Gene Mauch managed the Philadelphia Phillies, Montreal Expos, Minnesota Twins and California Angels, one of his favorite sayings was, “You can’t hide a player on defense. The baseball always finds him.”
It wasn’t that Cincinnati Reds manager Jim Riggleman was trying to hide Dilson Herrera in left field Saturday night, it was more of an attempt to get as many right handed bats in the lineup as he could against Arizona left hander Robbie Ray.
But it was Herrera’s debut in left field, and not just in the majors, but anywhere and he said, “My first time. Never played out there in my life.”
Can he do it, especially using a glove he borrowed from Brandon Dixon?
“I’ve been watching Billy Hamilton and I think he is the best around so I’m going to do something like him today,” Herrera said with a nervous giggle.
When Riggleman was told that Herrera planned to make a Hamilton-type play, he said, “Yeah, well, OK. I hope he lets Billy Hamilton take most of them hit out there.”
In addition to getting a right handed bat in the lineup, Riggleman said he wants playing time for Herrera, “But he is a second baseman-third baseman and we have two All-Stars (Scooter Gennett, Eugenio Suarez) playing those spots.”
Riggleman isn’t concerned about leaving a sinkhole in left field and said, “Dilson is a ballplayer. Most guys who play the infield can catch a fly ball. Basically, we want him to get it and get it back in to the cut-off man. Yes, it is a little bit of an experimentation, but as much as we want to win ball games we want to find out about some guys — who can do what.
“We’re facing a tough left hander (Ray) and we can get Dilson in the lineup with Phillip Ervin in right field and that gives us a couple of right handed bats against this tough left hander.”
Outwardly, Herrera took it like just another day at the breakfast table over scrambled eggs and sausage.
“I know it’s my first time out there but I feel really good and I know I’m gonna help the team and for that I feel real happy,” said the 24-year-old native of Cartagena, Colombia who came to the Reds as part of the Jay Bruce trade with the New York Mets.
Asked the toughest part of playing left field, Herrera shrugged because he has never experienced it and said, “Line drives, maybe. I am going to catch everything, do my best. I just want to play, help the team, do something for the team, and today I get the opportunity to play outfield and I’ll do my best.”
Riggleman said he has had Herrera take a lot of fly balls during batting practice both in left field and right field, “And that’s about as much as you can do to get ready. He has done that plenty, but game situations will be different, of course. It will be dark and there will the lights, so it is a challenge for him and we’ll find out.”
RIGGLEMAN was ecstatic when he read something Billy Hamilton said Friday night after his suicide squeeze play scored two runs in the Reds 3-0 win over Arizona.
“I saw what he said and I liked the word that he used,” said Riggleman. “He used the word ‘put’ instead of ‘bunt.’ He put the ball down. I’ve used that terminology with Billy going back to 2012.”
For years when Hamilton bunts, he runs toward first base before bunting the ball and either fouls it off or misses it. He has been implored to stay in the box, square around, put down the bunt, then run. And that’s what he did Friday and the light bulb illuminated over his head as if to say, “So that’s what they mean?”
Said Riggleman, “Over the years Delino DeShields has worked with him on it, Barry Larkin has talked to him about it, Joe Morgan has talked to him about it. He did it himself last night and ‘put’ the ball down instead of bunting it while he is moving, so maybe that will be the best way that it will stick to him.
“When he is bunting for a hit there is not a lot of surprise element there,” said Riggleman. “They know he can run and he may bunt. So it is going to be the quality of the bunt, not the deception that will get him a base hit. When he put that bunt down last night, he wasn’t deceiving. He was making sure he got it down because he knew the runner from third (Tucker Barnhart) was coming. And he still beat it.”
Riggleman acknowledged that everything Hamilton does is quick-twitch — he runs fast, he talks fast, he eats fast, he showers fast, he dresses fast. Everyrthing is fast, fast, fast. “But this is one thing he needs to slow down a bit and his terminology has to be to ‘put it’ and not to ‘bunt it.’”
SPEAKING OF HAMILTON, ESPN rated its Top 10 Sports Plays of July — not just baseball plays, but plays from all sports. And No. 1 was, wait for it, Billy Hamilton’s over-the-wall home run robbery of Matt Carpenter.
RELIEF PITCHERS JARED Hughes and David Hernandez were pleased about a nickname given to them by this writer, ‘The H Boys.’
“I like it,” said Hughes. “We’ve been looking for a nickname and we like that.”
Hernandez was sitting next to Matt Harvey, readying himself to start Sarday’s game and Hernandez said, “Yeah, I like it. Maybe we can include Matt Harvey and have t-shirts made up with our pictures on them.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “One pitch in a game is worth 1,000 against a pitching machine.”— Manager Jim Riggleman.