By HAL McCOY
The Cincinnati Reds have one more opportunity to win a spring training game before everything counts. The optimists will say, “They’re saving their wins for the regular season.” The pessimists say, “Oh, no, another long, long season.”
The Reds lost their sixth straight exhibition game Monday night in Atlanta’s SunTrust Park, 8-5 to the Braves.
With their last exhibition game scheduled Tuesday afternoon in Atlanta, the Reds have won only eight of their 31 games, losing 18 and tying five.
A lot of fans who were so excited about the team’s off-season maneuverings are now wavering and wondering, “Is this more of the same.”
More of the same is four straight last place finishes and four years in a row of losing 90 or more games.
On Monday night Tanner Roark, nearly flawless all Spring, crashed and burned. He pitched a 1-2-3 first inning, then tempted his own fate by walking the first two in the second.
And it cost him five runs and he only recorded two out before his removal. For the inning he gave up five runs, three hits, two walks and hit a batter.
With Scooter Gennett expected to miss eight to 12 weeks with a serious groin injury, it appears the Reds will move Jose Peraza from shortstop to second base and insert Jose Iglesias at shortstop.
Iglesias, a regular shortstop with the Detroit Tigers last season, was let go by the Tigers and the Reds signed him to a minor league contract — their second steal of the century from the Tigers. The Reds acquired third baseman Eugenio Suarez from the Tigers for over-the-hill pitcher Alfredo Simon
Iglesias started at shortstop Monday and led the third inning with a triple. Jesse Winker, who hit below .200 all spring, suddenly awakened. He hit two home runs Sunday and on Monday he doubled home Iglesias. And in the fourth inning he singled to drive in a run.
After Winker’s double Monday, Eugenio Suarez slugged his first home run of the spring to cut Atlanta’s margin to 5-3.
Yasiel Puig then singled. Scott Schebler, who has won center field with a mammoth spring, dropped a single into center field.
Puig tried to go from first to third on the hit and was thrown out at third base when he didn’t slide, committing two baseball sins. It is an unwritten by-law that a runner never makes the last out of an inning at third base. And when in doubt, slide.
Robert Stephenson, one of three pitchers contending for one open spot in the bullpen, came on to pitch the third.
The last spot is down to Stephenson, Mat Wisler and Wandy Peralta. Peralta has an option left, but Stephenson and Wisler don’t. That means the Reds have to put Stephenson and Wisler on waivers to send them to the minors, meaning any team could claim them.
Stephenson did himself no favors on Monday. Control has always been his problem and he walked the first batter he faced. Ozzie Albies then doubled and two runs scored on a ground ball and a sacrifice fly, pushing the Braves in front, 7-3.
After Winker’s single drove in a run, Reds relief pitcher David Hernandez knocked down Dansby Swanson with a pitch and Swanson dusted himself off and hit the next pitch out of the park for an 8-4 Atlanta lead.
The Reds scored the last run of the game in the seventh when pinch-hitter Derek Dietrich hit the right field foul pole for a home run.
The Reds conclude spring training Tuesday afternoon in Atlanta with Anthony DeSclafani as the starting pitcher. It might be nice for the fans to see the Reds win a game before Thursday’s Opening Day assignment against the Pittsburgh Pirates, with Luis Castillo the surprise starter.