By HAL McCOY
GILBERT, Ariz. — As I have to tell fans over and over, spring training is not about wins and losses. It is about getting pitchers and hitters ready for the season and it is about seeing minor league prospects perform in games.
But fans who pay high concession prices at spring training facilities like to see their favorite team win once in a while.
With what the Cincinnati Reds did in the off-season, spending $169 million on free agents, expectations are as high as the Arizona sky.
SO FAR THIS SPRING, the Reds have lost three of their first four exhibition games. . .take a deep breath, fans, and remember — spring exhibition results don’t count for anything.
Over the weekend, I sneaked away for a four-day getaway with a couple of friends for a long weekend in Gilbert, Ariz., about an hour from Goodyear.
We planned to attend the first two Cincinnnati exhibition games, but Saturday’s game was rained out. What? Rain in Arizona in the desert? Yeah, and real hard rain, too.
THEY PLAYED SUNDAY against the Chicago White Sox and lost, 7-2, with mostly minor leaguers playing.
Incredibly, the Reds put two runners on base in each of the first seven innings and stranded all 14. Didn’t score one.
Finally, a guy named Stuart Fairchild hit a tw9-run home run in the eighth to pull the Reds within a run, 3-2. But third baseman Jonathan India, the team’s No. 1 draft pick last year, made two errors in the ninth and the White Sox scored three runs.
Japanese outfielder Shogo Akiyama made his debut in a Reds uniform and led the bottom of the first with a solid single to center. He later walked and was thrown out trying to steal second. He also made two good running catchers while playing center field.
ON MONDAY, THE Reds beat the Texas Rangers, 9-6, but their ace, Luis Castillo, pitched only two-thirds of an inning and gave up three runs, three hits and two walks. Take a deep breath. It’s only spirng training. And Castillo was one notch above awful last spring and was two steps above magnificent during the season.
Speaking to reporters through an interpreter after the event, Castillo said, “I feel good, I feel very healthy, actually.” Well, at least that’s comforting.
“Obviously I was trying to throw strikes,” he said. “My scontrol was a little bit all over the place.”
And about that crowded outfield. Don’t forget Phillip Ervin. He hit a grand slam home run in the bottom of the first. Yeah, we know. Spring training.
Newly acquired Mike Moustakas and Nick Castellanos made their debuts. Moustakas and Castellanos both contributed hits and Moustakes was on base three straight times and homered. Castellanos was 1-for-3 with a double.
THE REDS played Tuesday in and lost to the team with the longest name in pro sports, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, 7-3. The only regulars in the lineup were Akiyama and Aristides Aquino. Akiyama had another hit and Aquino is still looking for his first hit.
The Reds had only five hits, two by shortstop Jose Garcia, both home runs. So are the Reds set with Freddy Galvis, are they still looking for a trade for a shortstop? How about Garcia. Yes, it’s only spring training, very early spring training.
The Angels huge free agent signee, Anthony Rendon, was 2-for-2, drove in a run and scored a run.
THE REDS HOSTED the Seattle Mariners Wednesday and lost, 5-3. Sonny Gray started and pitched two scoreless innings, giving up two hits and striking out five.
Michael Lorenzen was touched for a run and two hits in an inning and Lucas Sims gave up three runs, two hits and a walk in 1 2/3 innings.
The Reds managed eight hits, none by Joey Votto, still looking for his first spring hit. Yeah it’s only spring training.
Jose Siri, picked up by the Mariners when the Reds removed him from the 40-man roster, had a hit and a walk, drove in a run and scored two.
While in Gilbert, I loosened a belt notch. Had breakfast at a place called, well, I forgot the name because I left the place in a coma. Why? I ate three scrambled eggs, two large buttermilk pancakes, three strips of bacon, two sauage links and hash browns.
Had the best St. Louis-style ribs I ever tastred at the Caldwell County BBQ, served cafeteria-style and they even cut them apart for you.
Then, on our final night, we ate at the Keg Steakhouse and my peppercorn New York strip was a delight.
And they like to eat outdoors in the Phoenix area. We ate outdoors on Friday night at the Oregano Italian Grille, at the Caldwell County BBQ and at the Key Steakhouse. And the only flies I saw the whole team was at Goodyear Ball Park.
Of course, at the ball park I had a hot dog and a beer…for $13.
SOME ARE MAKING a big deal out of Arizona pitcher Madison Bumgarner performing in rodeos under an assumed name. Former Red pitcher Homer Bailey owns to rodeo roping horses and participated in rodeos during spring training in Buckeye, Ariz.
3 thoughts on “Reds off to sluggish spring start — but it doesn’t count”
Hal: Arizona warmth and good barbeque ? Now I’m envious !
Indeed, it does not count AT ALL. Guess that’s why management has decided to let the boys come to the park late and leave early so they will be ready to go when the bell rings for real. Wonder if LA, Washington, Atlanta, St. Louis are also doing it like that ?
Kinda like won 1and lost 8 to start the season…the adage then is “well it’s early”, “pitching is ahead of hitting” and so forth.
Go Reds !
Oh yeah…love, love the report of enjoying the eats & ST atmosphere!
Oh man! It’s good to read your work while on the road, Hal. Yours have seldom been strictly a report of what you see on the field, but a travelogue with restaurant tips, name dropping and all that comes with it. I hope your health will allow you keep doing what you do – at least some of the time. Find your balance with Nadine and do what you (and we!) love.
Take care, buddy.
Brayan O’Malley in Oslo, Norway