By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — When it comes to making out lineups and batting orders, Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell shuffles better than a blackjack dealer at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.
The Reds played their 35th game of the 2019 season Monday afternoon and Bell handed home plate umpire Chad Whitson his 32nd different lineup.
The Bell Special Monday contained Nick Senzel batting leadoff, the fourth different spot in the order for Senzel since his major league debut Friday. And it featured infielder Jose Peraza starting his first game in left field.
So the obvious question to Bell is how and why he puts these lineups together. . .and, no, he doesn’t sit at his clubhouse desk and toss darts at names on the wall, nor does he draw names out of a hat.
There is a method, even though some fans wonder if it is a method to madness.
“There are different things to consider every day,” said Bell. “It depends on who we are facing, who the opposing starter is, how the opposing bullpen in structured, who needs rests, who do we want to start. There are so many different factors.
“I think it gives us the edge we need every day to be able to approach it this way,” he added. “We have a group of guys who accept it, for it not to be a big deal, beginning with Joey Votto.”
That Votto has accepted batting leadoff and accepted batting second and accepted batting third and accepted days off makes Bell’s approach more palatable to the team, an attitude that says, “If it is OK with Joey, who am I to complain?”
Said Bell, “Yes, Joey is willing to do what it takes to help our team win. That makes it possible. And it gives it our best chance every day. How everybody buys in is equally important to me. Votto is a great example.”
SENZEL BATTED SECOND in his debut Friday, batted sixth Saturday, batted fifth Sunday and batted leadoff Monday. He has shown patience at the plate, has seen a lot of pitches, drawn four walks in his first three games.
“He has been having good at bats and he can run,” said Bell. “He has shown us quality at bats that make me feel comfortable putting him in that spot. He has hit in a different spot in every game and it doesn’t matter to him. He just wants to be in there. I don’t feel like I’m putting too much on him.”
SPEAKING OF QUALITY at bats, Josh VanMeter made his major league debut Sunday as a pinch-hitter and put together an excellent at bat to draw a walk. Then on the first pitch he stole second.
“That was a great at bat, some good patience in your first major league at bat,” said Bell. “I would have swung 10 times. And he stole second base on the first pitch. That was impressive. It was just one at bat and one stolen base, but to have that mindset, not being afraid, will take him a long way.”
AND PERAZA IN the outfield?
“With our situation the way it is now (limited outfielders), well, we like that he has played some out there before and he has put a lot of work in out there,” said Bell. “He can run, he is an athlete. We are doing everything we can to give us our best chance every day. He is up for it and all our guys are willing to do what it takes. This is the way that gives us our best chance today.”
WHEN IT COMES TO those throwback uniforms the Reds are wearing this year, Derek Dietrich takes the extra step.
On Sunday the Reds wore replicas of the blue uniforms worn by the 1912 team. To add authenticity, Dietrich drew a handlebar mustache on his lip with the boot black players spread under their eyes to diminish the sun’s glare.
It caught a lot of national TV time and a lot of attention from Dietrich’s fans and friends.
“I thought that since I can’t really grow a mustache or beard, I’d just add my own,” he said. “It played. But I thought, man, if I’m going to do something like this, I better get a hit.”
A hit? Dietrich was the anchor man on the Reds three-homer relay team in the first inning. The Reds hit three home runs on three successive pitches — Eugenio Suarez, Jesse Winker and Dietrich. And Dietrich’s nearly left the ball park, landing in the top row of the right field bleachers.
“No, I didn’t waste any time,” he said. “I had a good time with it. I received a lot of messages about it. Three home runs in three pitches? Pretty sweet. Hitting a home run is hard. Hitting three on three pitches is pretty cool to be part of.”
What’s next? Will Dietrich draw mutton-chop sideburns on his cheeks when the Reds wear the uniform from the 1970s?
“I don’t know,” he said. “Who knows? It evolves. I may think of something different, premeditated or under fire, who knows? We’ll keep our options open. We have a lot of different jerseys in our future.”
The 1912 replicas were a dark blue, both shirts and pants, and Dietrich was a big fan.
“Those were awesome, loved them, they were cool,” he said. “They fit good, nice, just like our normal jersies. They look old, but they are the same material as our normal uniform jerseys. They did a great job. They are unique and it is great to go old-school.”