By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — It would have been apropos for David Bell to show up at Thursday’s pre-game media scrum wearing a doctor’s smock and a stethoscope.
For 25 minutes, all the Cincinnati Reds manager talked about was medical issues.
The Reds made a blizzard of transactions before the game to cover aches, pains, pulls, strains and concussions.
To wit: catcher Curt Casali was placed on the 10-day injured list with a right knee sprain. Catcher Kyle Farmer was placed on the seven-day concussion list. Relief pitcher David Hernandez was placed on the 10-day injured list with shoulder fatigue.
To cover the losses, the Reds recalled outfielder Josh VanMeter, pitcher Lucas Sims and signed catcher Ryan Lavarnway.
In addition, both Nick Senzel and Derek Dietrich were out of the lineup for the series opener against the St. Louis Cardinals. Senzel has a mild hamstring issue and Dietrich has a sore knee after getting hit with a pitch for the 21st time this season.
Can you say M.A.S.H. unit?
Regular catcher Tucker Barnhart is still at least two weeks away from scrambling off the injury list. So, all three catchers that left spring camp on the Reds 25-man roster are hog-tied on the IL.
The Reds called up catcher Juan Graterol from Class AAA Louisville earlier this week and plopped him immediately into the lineup. He was in spring camp with the Reds.
Not so, Ryan Larvarnway. He was with the Yankees, playing at Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and was released Wednesday night. The Reds immediately signed him.
Because of the catching issues, the Reds have tried to speed up Barnhart’s healing process on his right oblique. Bell said he is a week ahead of his projected return and has been given permission to swing a bat, “But will need at least 10 days on a rehab assignment,” said Bell.
Said Barnhart, “Yeah, I can do baseball work but they’ve told me to not push it, to take it easy.”
Barnhart sat at his locker chewing an apple, perhaps believing the saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”
About the catching situation, Barnhart said, “I’ve never seen anything like this. We’ve had some really, really bad luck on this last road trip. Juan (Graterol) has played in the big leagues and he was with us in spring training. Ryan (Lavarnway) signed today and has played in the big leagues.”
Asked what challenges faced Graterol and Lavarnway as newcomers, Barnhart smiled and said, “First of all, learning everybody’s names and meeting the guys. They have to gain familiarity with the pitchers. Me, Curt and Kyle have been with the team all year. And they’ll have to absorb game plans, but our scouting report has done a great job with that and I have no doubt those guys will hit the ground running.”
They better be.
It was evident quite quickly that Lavarnway attended Yale University.
“I’ve definitely taken a non-linear career path,” he said. In his case, that means he hasn’t taken a straight path from when he was drafted to making the majors.
He was drafted out of Yale by the Boston Red Sox in the sixth round in 2008, 11 years ago. He does have seven years in the majors, but has never played more than 46 games in a season (2012 with Boston).
He also made cameo appearances for Baltimore, Atlanta, Oakland and Pittsburgh, but has only 146 total major league games. His career batting average in the majors is .206.
“I’ve been through maybe 100 ups-and-down, so if anything would prepare me for an unusual circumstance, I think I’m ready,” said the 31-year-old Californian. “I’ve played in the minors against some of the guys and against most of them, but I definitely have to do my work and get to know these guys.”
After he was released by the Yankees after a game Wednesday, he said, “I was packing up my whole life last night, then confirmation from the Reds came at 11:30 p.m. and I had a flight real early. I would do it 100 times just to be here. I’m grateful.”
He said the Yankees did him a huge favor making him available to the Reds, “The Yankees were trying to do right by me. There wasn’t a ton of at bats to go around. They are super deep at catcher. I appreciate them doing right by me to let me find an opportunity to play.”
Bell was asked how he feels and he said, “Good. Better than most of the guys.”
He knows, though, that other teams won’t feel sorry for the Reds, won’t let up in sympathy.
“From a baseball standpoint, this is to be expected,” he said. “It is one of those challenges to a season. It is what makes the season a great challenge, to survive these and battle through it.
“You wonder how this will affect our team because we’ve all been together for several months now,” Bell added. “Part of what you do, in any walk of life, it is how you respond to things, how you react. It is what choices you make when things kind of hit you. You can start making excuses or you can see it as a challenge. You get through these times and then you are in really good shape.”
—Farmer felt better Thursday after taking two foul tips squarely on the mask.
—Casali is the worse for wear with his right knee sprain. Bell said he will be in a brace for at least two weeks and then it will a matter of getting back in playing shape, perhaps a month.
—Derek Dietrich, in the words of Bell: “He’s fine. Once the X-Rays were negative we knew he would be fine. We’ve all seen he is pretty tough.”
—Nick Senzel tweaked his hamstring scoring a run in Chicago Wednesday and was out of Thursday’s line, but Bell said, “He’s fine, too. It might a day or two, but not an IL. We’ll be cautious with him. The MRI says just a couple of days. It is very, very mild.”
—On Hernandez, Bell said, “We gave him three days off and hoping that would get him over the hump.” But Hernandez walked the first batters he faced in Chicago Wednesday and gave up a two-run double to Jason Heyward.
“There was no talk of an injury, but there was something — the ball just wasn’t coming out right. After he felt the same way yesterday after three days off it became clear we needed to take a bigger step back. We have to get him back to where he was early this season because he hasn’t been there the last couple of weeks.”
—Lucas Sims made on emergency start for the Reds earlier this season and a good one. He is the only pitcher to make a start other than the team’s five starters out of spring training. But he’ll serve in the bullpen for now.
“He is going into the bullpen, but remains an option if we need a starter,” said Bell. “I told him to ready for anything, any situation.”
—Pitcher Alex Wood pitched two innings on rehab for Louisville Wednesday night and then rain ended his night. He finished his assignment by throwing 70 total pitches. If all goes well, he’ll make on more rehab assignment. “We had very good reports on him and he continues to get sharper every time out.”
—Relief pitcher Amir Garrett is scheduled to pitch in the minors somewhere Friday, one appearance, one inning, “Then be activated Sunday,” said Bell.