By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — No Joey Votto, No Eugenio Suarez. No Jesse Winker. No Amir Garrett.
What is a manager to do. Since it isn’t football, Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell can’t drop back 15 yards and punt.
He must play it out and that is what he had to do Saturday night in Great American Ball Park against the division-leading St. Louis Cardinals.
With Amir Garrett still serving his suspension for the haymakers he threw at the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Reds are both a man short in the bullpen and a man short on the roster. A player serving a suspension can not be replaced on the roster.
The Reds tried to address the bullpen issues. Because Matt Bowman pitched 1 2/3s innings Friday night and was unavailable Saturday, the Reds dispatched him back to Class AAA Louisville.
To replace him, they recalled Class AAA pitcher R.J. Alaniz, a right hander they claimed off waivers from the Seattle Mariners on May 31.
While at Louisville he was 1-and-2 with a 2.93 earned run average with four saves in 24 relief appearance. He made his major league debut with Seattle in April and made four appearances before he was placed on waivers.
Suarez jammed his thumb on a play at third base Friday night and is unavailable. Votto is missing his third straight start with back issues and is not available. Winker also has back issues and while he didn’t start Saturday’s game, Bell believes he might be usable to pinch-hit and has fingers crossed on both hands that it won’t be necessary.
So the Reds engaged the Cardinals with seven pitchers in the bullpen, two of which are raw rookies. And his bench pretty much contains pitcher/outfielder Michael Lorenzen and back-up catcher Kyle Farmer.
And Bell certainly hesitates to use Farmer in any capacity early in the game because he is the only other catcher and must be held back in case something dastardly happens to Tucker Barnhart.
It couldn’t be any worse than if Bell managed the game in handcuffs with a blindfold over his eyes.
He won’t attend any pity parties or offer an woe-is-me comments. To him, it is what is what it is what is. And it isn’t good.
“There have been plenty of teams that have gone through this,” he said. “It would be abnormal if it didn’t happen at some point in the year when you are short. We’ll figure it out.”
Figuring it out definitely means some changes in running the game, in making decisions.
“It affected us two nights ago because we probably would have used Jesse or Joey off the bench, if we had them,” he said. “But it turned out not to affect the game (a 2-1 Reds win). It didn’t come in to play Saturday (because the Reds fell behind, 12-0, and lost, 13-4).
“But it can, for sure,” he added. “There are considerations, of course. If you only have one or two guys off the bench, you have to pick the right spot. It has to be a big enough spot in the game to use them.”
It also will limit Bell’s use of the double switches, which many fans might applaud.
“Yes, it does affect that, too,” he said.
ON ANOTHER NOTE, New York Yankees manager suggested this week that Major League Baseball should investigate the possibility of invoking The Mercy Rule, the Little League-style run rule.
If a team is behind by 10 or more runs after seven innings, Boone says maybe the game should be stopped. Not surprisingly, Boone’s comment came after his Yankees were obliterated and annihilated by the Cleveland Indians, 19-4. Boone used a position player for two innings.
“If you get to this point after seven innings or whatever, there might be something to that, some merit to that and worth exploring,” said Boone of the 10-run rule. “Because it’s not fun to have to put in a position player in that kind of situation.
“Sitting in my chair, you worry about hurting someone,” Boone added. “You hate throwing up a flag like that, and sitting there and getting kicked in the mouth is no fun.”
Reds manager David Bell sees merit in it if teams continue to quit playing hard when they get far, far behind. He would prefer the games be played the full nine innings, but only if teams compete.
And he has been on the bad side of having to use position players to pitch in blowout games. He has done it this year with Kyle Farmer and Friday night with Jose Peraza.
“I think it is a good idea per se,” said Bell. “But I like playing the game out. There are times where teams will get way behind and shut it down. That drives me crazy.
“I’d rather play it out, that’s my preference. Just play the game. Who cares if you blow a team out. Nobody is trying to run up the score.
“To me you have to keep trying to add on (runs) in this day-and-age of offense,” he said. “And it affects how you use your bullpen. If you are up seven or eight runs, you have to keep scoring. If the other team hits a grand slam home run you have to keep using your bullpen and then you may not have them the next day.”
Bell does not subscribe to that unwritten rule that you don’t steal bases with a big lead. There was a famous brawl between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Reds in the 70’s. Dodgers second baseman Dave Lopes stole second with an 11-0 lead. Next time up he was hit by a pitch and a brawl ensued.
“It drives me crazy when teams shut it down and you are not allowed to run or take extra bases,” he said. “If they are going to do that, then they ought to just shut the game down when a team has a 10-run lead.
“My preference, and not everybody agrees, is to just keep playing the game hard,” he added. “Play to win and forget the unwritten rule. Everybody just wants to win the game and make sure you can use your roster in the proper way.”
Bell said that’s the way he manages — he’ll steal and coach his players to take the extra base no matter the score.
“We’ve had big leads this year where teams have come back to beat us,” said Bell. “We’ll keep running, I don’t care what the other team thinks. And, honesty, if another team has a big lead on us and they want to keep running, that’s fine. We’ll never have a problem with that.”
Baseball purists needn’t worry about MLB implementing The Mercy Rule. It would cheat the fans out of a couple of innings. Refunds from management? Won’t happen. Play on, fellas.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: A young fan named Will Gawronski, part of a Stand Up to Cancer event, was permitted to attend manager David Bell’s pre-game press conference and was permitted the first question.
GAWRONSKI: “Do you think Aristides Aquino can keep up his home run pace.”
BELL: “What do you think?”
BELL: “So do I.”