By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — As far as the make-up of their 25-man roster is concerned, the Cincinnati Reds have reached a point of no return.
There isn’t a position player on the roster who doesn’t deserve to be where he is, no way any of them should be shipped back to Class AAA Louisville.
So what happens when Derek Dietrich and Curt Casali finish their rehab assignments and are ready to come off the injured list and play?
Dietrich begins his rehab Monday and Casali begins his Tuesday, both with Louisville. And manager David Bell says, “Both should be ready by the Pittsburgh series (which begins Friday in PNC Park).”
Who goes? Who deserves to go? Nobody. Maybe it is Dietrich himself. Since a dramatic start to the season that included a plethora of home runs, he has been helpless at the plate since before the All-Star break.
Perhaps it is because of the sore shoulder that placed him on the injured list, but it seems the only way for him to get on base lately was to get hit by a pitch.
Casali is another story. He is the Reds’ back-up catcher and he is needed. Kyle Farmer has filled in, but Farmer is more valuable filling in at all the infield positions.
And while Casali has been out, Bell has had to hold back on using Farmer when Tucker Barnhart is catching for fear that something might happen to Barnhart. He needs Farmer in reserve, just in case.
Casali also has been a productive citizen as the back-up catcher and pinch-hitter.
A quick glance at the roster makes one wonder what the Reds can possibly do. Josh VanMeter, Phillip Ervin and Farmer are valuable pieces to the puzzle the Reds have steadily and gradually pieced together.
Is Jose Peraza vulnerable? Both he and Dietrick can play multiple positions, a pre-requisite for back-up players these days. But Peraza has been more productive than Dietrich lately.
One of Bell’s most valuable players is relief pitcher/outfielder/pinch-hitter Michael Lorenzen.
During Saturday’s 6-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, Lorenzen provided two innings of no runs and one hit pitching with no walks and three strikeouts. And he was 2-for-2 at the plate and scored a run.
Was it mentioned that Lorenzen is hitting .357 for his 76 at bats?
“Michael Lorenzen is a great option that most teams don’t have,” said Bell. “I don’t give him enough credit for what he brings to this team and what an incredible athlete he is. What he does shouldn’t surprise me, and it doesn’t, but it is almost like I still see him as a pitcher, which he is. But he is an athlete.”
Of Lorenzen’s performance Saturday night, Bell said, “He was really good tonight, as he was in his previous appearance. It was really powerful. He used all his stuff and he was really aggressive with his fastball. And he had two hits.
“To his credit, there was a long stretch where I didn’t use him, he didn’t get a lot of at bats. But he stayed ready, stayed ready and stayed ready. And when I gave him the chance he had a pretty good ball game, pitching and hitting.”
When told that Lorenzen was hitting .357, Bell smiled and said, “Is he really? Wow.”
Lorenzen shrugs it all off, as if there is nothing to it. Maybe for him, it isn’t.
“I don’t consider myself a pitcher or an outfielder,” he said. “I am a ball player. And I’m always ready to do whatever they want me to do, be it pitch, pinch-hit, pinch-run or play the outfield. I’m confident in doing them all. And I have fun doing it.”
JUST PRIOR TO SUNDAY’S game against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Reds finally placed first baseman Joey Votto on the 10-day injured list with a lower back sprain. Votto missed the entire four-game St. Louis series. To take his place on the roster the Reds recalled Brian O’Grady from Louisville. But for the duration of Votto’s time on the IL, first base will be manned by Josh VanMeter.