By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — It isn’t often a fresh-faced rookie is summoned from Triple-A in August and is placed immediately into the filet mignon portion of a major league team’s lineup.
And it isn’t often that the rookie does so well that the manager can’t bring himself to give the kid a day off.
For Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell, the first name he probably scribbles on his lineup card is: “Aristides Aquino, batting fourth.”
That is saying something special about Aquino because Bell likes to shuffle the deck more often than a Las Vegas croupier.
“No, I don’t want to take him out of the lineup, don’t want to interrupt what he is doing,” said Bell. “He is a young player, but there will come a time, for sure, when I give him a day off.
“There hasn’t been an obvious time yet,” said Bell. “The other thing is that he has such a solid approach right now. When a guy is like that, in some ways it doesn’t even matter who is pitching.
“It’ll happen, there will be a day for that (a day off), but not yet.”
Not yet, indeed. Why even think about it?
Since his August 1 call-up from Class AAA Louisville, Aquino has started all 17 games and owns 11 home runs, a double, 15 runs scored, 22 RBI, six walks and 14 strikeouts in 63 plate appeareances. His slash line is .333/.397/.930,
“He has been impressive in every way,” said Bell. “And not just with the home runs. It is the way he’s handled it. We put him right in the middle of the batting order from Day One.
“He has produced, and not just on the field,” Bell added. “He is a mature young player and his personality and his demeanor have allowed him to keep it going. He hasn’t let himself get too emotional. He has stayed consistent.
“His total demeanor is just like his hitting approach,” said Bell. “He is very consistent. I know it is a torrid pace and I don’t think anyone can keep that up. But the good news for us is that we believe in him as a person and as a player. We believe that he will continue to be a good player and get even better.”
While Aquino batting fourth and Joey Votto batting second, when he isn’t on the injured list, are constants, Bell’s batting orders otherwise flucuate nearly every game.
Some fans want an every day lineup, the same guys in the same order. Some cite Sparky Anderson using The Great Eight nearly every game as an example. That, of course, is far from the truth.
Anderson put out the lineup of Pete Rose, Ken Griffey Sr, Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, George Foster, Dave Concepcion and Cesar Geronimo only 88 times in 1976. They only lost 19 times.
“Our goal every day is to put up the best lineup on the field that gives us the best chance to win,” said Bell. “And that is especially true this time of year. That can look different each day because we have the opportunity to mix and match.
“Sometimes there are a couple of tough calls the night before when I’m making out the next day’s lineup and discussing it with the staff,” said Bell. “There are always reasons for it. Yes, guys want to play every day and I encourage that response. I want them to want to be in there.
“But it has worked out and will continue to work out,” he added.
When it was mentioned how some fans clamor for an every day lineup, even though no teams in baseball run the same lineup onto the field day-after-day, Bell smiled.
“I understand that,” he said. “My job is to put the best team out there to win that day. But for 162 games, a lot of that has changed. There is the importance of keeping players performing at a level for 162 games. To be the best team we can be, we need all 25 guys. That’s just the way it is.”
Neverless, right now the lineup begins and ends with Aristides Aquino.