Observations: Is it time for the Reds to starting winning?

By HAL McCOY

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, watching a horse named Syndergaard race at New York’s Aqueduct Park and wondering if many race horses have names associated with baseball.

With no laundry or dishes to do, I checked the entries for five race tracks on one day and discovered: Conforto, Schott, Paint the Corners, Yankee Pride, Roseboro, Yukalisss, Five-Star Bunt, The Grand Bambino, Playoff Bound and Smart Strike.

No, I didn’t wager on any of them.

—With Alex Wood taking pain-killers and medication for an aching back, the Cincinnati Reds are searching for an emergency fifth starter if Wood isn’t ready by Opening Day.

The No. 1 prospect, Tyler Mahle, so far is a suspect. He pitched four innings Monday against the Colorado Rockies and gave up four runs and seven hits, not pretty numbers for the ol’ resume.

He had runners on base in every inning and gave up runs in three of the four, including a 450-foot home run over the black batter’s eye in center field at Salt River at Talking Stick Park by second baseman Ryan McMahon. McMahon also had a run-scoring double off Mahle and leads the Cactus League with a .444 average.

Raisel Iglesias gave up a home run in the fifth inning to Trevor Story as the Reds lost — again — by 6-3.

The Reds have won only six games, lost 12 and tied five this spring.

On the plus side, the club has received outstanding pitching from newcomers Tanner Roarke and Sonny Gray. And Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp are unstitching baseballs. In a game last week they both homered in the same game and in another game Puig hit two home runs, including a grand slam.

Should there be concern over the bullpen? In most games this spring the Reds hang in, either leading or tied or close behind until the late innings and give it up.

On Sunday they led the Cleveland Indians, 9-5, heading into the ninth. Six runs came on the grand slam by Puig against Corey Kluber and a two-run rip off Tribe closer Brad Hand.

But Reds relief pitcher Jesus Reyes gave up four runs in the ninth to tie it and it ended 9-9, Cincinnati’s fifth tie this spring, third with the Indians.

Outfielder Phillip Ervin had hits his first two at bats Monday and is hitting .361. Scott Schebler started in center field and hit a home run his first time up, then struck out twice, then singled and is hitting .429. Jose Iglesias played shortstop and had two hits and is batting .310, most likely making Jose Peraza squirm a bit.

There are some stragglers, though. Joey Votto is hitting .100, but of course owns a bundle of walks. Jesse Winker is hitting .147 and Eugenio Suarez is hitting .188.

With Opening Day fast approaching, isn’t it about time the Reds put a match to the win-some-games wick? Winning is a habit. So is losing and that’s a bad habit the Reds have had for four years.

—QUOTE: From former Reds outfielder Eric Davis: “The first two times I went to spring training I had to win a job. And if I didn’t get off to a blazing start I was on the bench. Then I proved myself and it wasn’t essential to get off to a real good start.”

—There are the usual head-scratchers on the NCAA tournament bracket. Isn’t there always.

For example, what in the name of James Naismith is Ohio State and its 19-14 record doing occupying a line on the bracket?

Both Dayton and Wright State own better records but are in The Loser’s Bracket, also known as the NIT.

And I don’t want to hear about Ohio State playing a tougher schedule. Yes, the Buckeyes did, but they lost most of those ‘tougher’ games.

How about Kentucky? The Wildcats were given a No. 2 seed and North Carolina was given a No. 1 seed. Guess who beat whom when the two teams played. Yes, Kentucky won.

Nevertheless, March Madness might be the most popular sporting event in the U.S. If you don’t fill out a bracket you are considered un-American.

And I have an upset special for you in the first round: 14th-seeded Yale over third-seeded LSU.

LSU coach Will Wade was suspended by the NCAA. The Bayou Bengals won the regular season SEC title, but looked bewitched, bothered and beheaded without their coach in the SEC tournament and lost in the first round to Florida as four-point favorites.

Yale averaged 84 points over its last nine games and everybody knows the Yalies are a bunch of ultra-intelligent dudes.

—QUOTE: From Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick: “A whale ship was my Yale college and my Harvard.”

—There are reports that the San Diego Padres are still trying to work out a trade with the Cleveland Indians for either Corey Kluber and/or Trevor Bauer.

What are the Indians trying to do, level the playing field in the American League Central? The Tribe is odds-on favorites to win the division. Do they believe they still can win it without one or two of their top-level starters?

Come to think of it, checking out the rest of the division, they probably can.

—QUOTE: Former New York Yankees manager Casey Stengel on how he informed one of his players, Bob Cerv, that he had been traded: “Nobody knows this yet, but one of us has been traded to Kansas City.”

Vontaze Burfict is gone. The Cincinnati Bengals released the man who has played outside linebacker the last seven seasons when he wasn’t suspended for head-hunting.

When he played the game straight-up, he was an outstanding performer. But he lost more yardage on penalties than Andy Dalton lost getting sacked.

How long will it be before he is signed by the Oakland Raiders?

—QUOTE: From former Bengal Vontaze Burfict about the Pittsburgh Steelers: “I don’t give no —— about them. Zero. You can write that, too. I don’t no —— about them. They’re just another team. They don’t scare me.” (Browns fans feel the same way, Vontaze.)

—The first race at the Pompano Park harness track Monday night resembled a Roman chariot race.

There was a pileup that involved six horse-and-carriages with hooves, tails, buggy whips and wheels flying every which way. Fortunately, all six horses and all six drivers walked away uninjured.

—QUOTE: From author John Steinbeck: The profession of writing books makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business.” (Well, Mr. Steinbeck, horse racing is always a ‘stable’ business.)

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