By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — After three games in weather not suited for outdoor ice hockey, the Cincinnati Reds, as a team, are hitting .200 with an on-base average of .276.
Those are not good numbers for a team that carries the label, “New, Improved Reds.”
It is way, way, way too early for fans to dismiss the 2019 season, although if one listens to talk radio some already have.
Despite those feeble offensive numbers the Reds did win one of those three games.
Scott Schebler, Jesse Winker and Matt Kemp entered Tuesday’s game searching for their first hit. Yasiel Puig is hitting .091 and Eugenio Suarez is hitting .100.
After an exhaustive and thorough search of David Bell’s office, there is no panic button for the soft-spoken, mild-mannered manager to push.
And he wouldn’t push it if there was one.
Before Tuesday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers he calmly answered pointed questions about the anemic offense.
“Every game is so important to us and we do try to put the best offense together as possible,” he said. “The best thing is that we are only three games into the season. I don’t take it lightly, but we’re confident, very confident in our lineup.”
Bell says he and his staff are ready to react over any sustained slumps but the key is not to over-react.
There was a change Tuesday with Derek Dietrich at second base and Jose Peraza back to shortstop and Jose Iglesias in the dugout.
The change had nothing to do with frozen bats because Iglesias is hitting .429.
“You are constantly trying to keep a balance where you are not over-reacting,” said Bell. “You trust the process and the track records. You put guys in certain positions and situations for a reason. It is a game of constant adjustments and if we need to do it we will be pro-active with it.”
So having Dietrich in the lineup was not a knee-jerk decision to ignite the offense, although he is capable of it.
“He makes it easy to play him because he is used to the role of not playing every day,” said Bell. “He will continue to contribute a lot to this team off the bench as well as a starter.
“Part of that is finding opportunities for him to play to keep him as sharp as possible,” Bell added. “We also think when he is in the lineup there is a reason for it — to rest a player or get a better match-up against a certain pitcher. Keeping him engaged and sharp will pay off in the long run.”
Bell’s optimism is high that the Reds will be the offensive machine that fans expect.
“These guys are used to the ebb and flow of the game at this level,” he said. “We have a young team but we have a veteran team, too. We’re confident they will stay after it, keep after it. They’ll get into a flow and a rhythm.”
Puig was hitless for the embryonic season when he doubled home two runs in the fifth inning Monday night. In his previous at bat he hit into a double play with two on and nobody out and the Reds down, 3-0.
His two-run double, his only hit in 11 at bats, pulled the Reds to within 3-2 in a game they lost, 4-3.
“From a player’s standpoint, you need to get that first hit so you can take a deep breath and it is a bit of a relief,” said Bell. “We were happy for him because it was a huge hit and got us right back into the game. Hey, they are all working hard and trying to get into the flow of the season.”
THE LOSS OF pitcher Hunter Greene for a year after Tommy John surgery next week is, indeed, a setback, but it is one Bell believes will only make Greene stronger.
“I feel for him, but the good news is that he is so young and talented,” said Bell. “With the advances they have made with that surgery a lot of times guys are coming back stronger and healthier.
“By all indications he is going to bounce back. He’ll be fine and have a long career ahead of him. That doesn’t make it any easier for him to have to go through this,” Bell added.
ON THE PITCHING FRONT closer to home, the news is not positive on Alex Wood and his back miseries.
There is no target date for his return and he has suffered a couple of setbacks on his path to recovery.
“He is progressing, although he has had a couple of little setbacks and he is not getting back as quickly as he wanted,” said Bell. Bell said there isn’t a set date for him to pitch in extended spring training in Arizona.”