By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — As an old school manager, there are certain facets in baseball that Jim Riggleman lists as his personal Ten Commandments of the game.
He talked about one early this week and when he finished a long dissertation he slammed his fist on his desk with high-decibel emphasis and said with a smile, “And that’s my final word.”
And what was the subject? Tired baseball players at the end of the season. Unless there are extenuating circumstances Riggleman believes that players should not be exhausted, or even tired, by season’s end.
There are several Cincinnati Reds lugging baseball bats to the plate these days as if they are carrying bowling balls attached to each end. When play began Wednesday night, Billy Hamilton was 2 for 28. Tucker Barnhart was 3 for 32. Joey Votto is leading the league in excuse-him half-swing infield hits and outfield bloops. Eugenio Suarez is hitting .194 in his last 21 games and has driven in one run.
What set Riggleman into animated motion was a suggestion that Suarez might be worn down.
“Uh, you know, I could go on and on about this,” he said. “We don’t have enough time for me to talk about this.”
Then he launched a six-minute sit-down monologue from his black swivel chair in his clubhouse office.
“I am not in that camp of thought of tired ball players and all that stuff,” he said. He injected the names of baseball’s two iron men, guys who played every game, day after day after day, never missing a game. “I have too much respect for Cal Rikpen Jr. and Lou Gehrig to allow players to say they are tired when we’ve added four off days to the schedule this season, making it easier for players. So I don’t allow that to even get into my vocabulary.
“I think losing a lot and being on the field a lot during long innings can be draining. We’ve had a lot of times where we’ve had two baserunners an inning out there, multiple times in the game, a lot going on, pitching changes, long innings.
So you are out there a lot and that can wear on you. But physically? I don’t buy into the concept of tired. I don’t get it.
“If you are physically tired and on a playoff team, how do you play in October?” he said. “I know Geno is not tired. I know players need a day off now-and-then because of the frustration and the grind and the oh-fers mount up and you are irritated.”
Riggleman says what drains a player is the mental struggles, not the physical sapping of strength.
“I am really sensitive to that issue about tired because I’ve had this conversation with people and I go on the computer to see who has the most at bats and most games played,” he said. “Most of them are on teams that are going to be playing in the playoffs and be big contributors,” Riggleman added. “That tells me that those guys aren’t tired, they are energized because of where their teams are in the standings. It is a drain to go three or four years where you are getting beat so much and you get worn down.”
There was a long pause, as if Riggleman was finished. He wasn’t. After a moment of sustained silence, he quickly continued and said, “That doesn’t mean I’m right on that issue, that’s just my stance.”
Riggleman reached into recent history with the Reds and said, “Somebody is struggling a little bit and somebody says so-and-so looks tired. This happened very recently. In the next two days he hit three homers and had six RBI. Well, we were a day later in the calendar and why wasn’t he tired today?” He was referring to Joey Votto.
“I just don’t want to hear the words ‘physically tired,’” he said. “Vince Coleman (St. Louis Cardinals) stole 100 bases every year. And he covered the outfield. And he was running back-and-forth on the basepaths on foul balls. Running, running, running. But Vince Coleman and Ozzie Smith, playing on the 100-degree AstroTurf in St. Louis, would get 700 plate appearances every year. I’d never ask a player to do that, but I also don’t want to rationalize that a player is not swinging the bat because he is tired.”
And that’s when Riggleman smashed the top of his desk and began laughing at the writers he startled.
LUIS CASTILLO WAS scheduled to start Friday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates, but that won’t happen. Like Matt Harvey, he is being shut down. He has made 31 starts (10-12, 4.30) and pitched 169 2/3 innings.
The Reds have decided that is enough for the 25-year-old Dominican. He pitched exactly 169 2/3 innings last season, 80 1/3 at Class AA Pensacola and 89 1/3 for the Reds.
“We are shutting him down right now,” said Riggleman. “He has had a very nice year for us and his innings are at a point right now, about 170 innings. We’ll let him finish on the last start he had. He can go into the off-season and prepare off of that.”
In his last three starts, Castillo gave up only two earned runs over 21 1/3 innings (0.84 earned run average). In his last start in Miami, he pitched 8 1/3 scoreless innings and gave up five hits and walked one, although the Reds lost the game in 10 innings, 1-0. For the last three starts, he gave up only 13 hits over those 21 1/3 innings and walked six and struck out 16.
“Maybe we can give him more innings next year, who knows? But this is a good number for him this year,” said Riggleman. “Yes, part of it is having him finish on a good note and we can take advantage in September of all the (pitching) bodies we have. We want to win that day, but we’ll leave him at the 170 innings mark.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY — A culinary remark from Reds relief pitcher Jared Hughes: “I need to find one more bratwurst this weekend. I never had a bratwurst in my life until I pitched in Milwaukee last year. Now I’m addicted.”