By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — Jared Hughes was ready and willing, if not able, when Cincinnati Reds manager Jim Riggleman arrived to the clubhouse Sunday morning.
Hughes had a new Louisville Slugger baseball bat with his name emblazoned on the barrel leaning against his locker.
“What do you think? Michael Lorenzen inspired me,” said Hughes. “I’m going to do it, too. Why not me? You never know. Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go ask Jim Riggleman if he needs me to pinch-hit today.”
Hughes, of course, was playing off the awesome batwork done by fellow relief pitcher Michael Lorenzen last week — three home runs that included Saturday’s pinch-hit grand slam.
“Hey, I’ve hit a home run. . .once,” said Hughes. “I’m ready for No. 2.” Since Hughes’ forte as a pitcher is inducing ground balls with his sinker that dives like mosquitoes at a picnic, it was suggested that as a batter he couldn’t hit a home run because he would hit nothing but ground balls. That would necessitate an inside-the-park home run.
“Oh, I can do that,” he said with a wide grin. “But I’m going to work on hitting home runs in the cage this winter. I’m not quite there yet. But the sky is the limit.”
Hughes, though, perfectly understands that a baseball in his hand is much more valuable to the Reds than a bat in his hands. He has pitched 42 2/3 innings so far this season, on pace for 85 innings. He has never pitched more than 75 2/3 innings in one season and that was five seasons ago.
Does it matter to Hughes? Bring it on. How about 90 innings? How about 100 innings?
“I like it,” he said matter-of-factly. “In the past I’ve been the guy who comes into a game with a couple guys on to get a ground ball or two and then leave the game. A situational pitcher.
“l want to get everybody out, so if the manager trusts me against the opposing lineup, that means I’m going to pitch more,” he said. “It speaks to (catcher) Tucker Barnhart being able to call the right pitches and I just have to prepare for every hitter in the opposing lineup so Jim trusts me.”
The way Riggleman has used Hughes this season, more than one inning 11 times, shows that he believes, “In Jared We Trust.” Said Hughes, “I’m thankful for it. I love being able to pitch. The more the merrier.”
The question is: Will his soon-to-be 33-year-old (33 on the Fourth of July) arm hold up to constant use (and that’s use, not abuse).
“My arm is holding up right now,” he said. “At times in my career I’ve gone through some pain now and then. But right now I feel good. I feel strong. I just need to keep with my workout routine.”
Hughes, who always seems to do things differently and more interestingly, came up with an unusual explanation for his workout routine.
“I try to fool my body,” he said. What? “I have a quality, consistent workout routine. I like to keep my body guessing. Occasionally I use ice. Sometimes I’ll do stim. Sometimes I’ll do contrast — hot and cold. And compression is always good.”
But, keep your body guessing? “Yeah, because I don’t want my body to become used to one sort of treatment because then it expects it. Recovery becomes more valuable if you mix up recovery techniques.”
As did most pitchers, Hughes began his career as a starting pitcher and it wasn’t going swimmingly in the Pittsburgh organization. They turned him into a relief pitcher at Class AA Altoona in 2011 and it was his direct path to the majors.
“I loved it,” he said. “I started sprinting into game after a couple of bad relief appearances. That changed my career. After running in from the bullpen I started throwing harder. I had way more success and wound up in the big leagues.
“The bullpen is better for me because I don’t have to pace myself,” he said. “Everything I’ve got is coming on the next pitch. I don’t have to worry about nine innings. And I’m doing this because I want to win and I’m never going to complain about what they want me to do.”
What they don’t want him to do is pinch-hit, even though he is bat-armed and believes he is dangerous. “What do you think?” Hughes said to Lorenzen, seated near by, as Hughes swung his bat. Lorenzen just smiled.
Lorenzen was wearing a black t-shirt that said on the front in large white letters, ‘Made For More.’ He certainly is.
“Somebody sent me the shirts, I don’t know who, but I thought they were pretty nice,” he said. Lorenzen said he received thousands of texts and tweets after his grand slam Saturday, “And I spent Saturday night on my side in bed answering as many texts as I could. It was a wild night, that’s for sure, especially after the game before when I hit a home run. I thought that was awesome, then to show up the next day and have that happen (the grand slam you just wonder, ‘What the. . .?”
And Lorenzen was ready Sunday. To pitch? No, to hit. He pitched three innings Friday and his arm needs two days to recuperate, but he was headed to the batting cage to hone his swing. “I want my body to reset (from pitching). I haven’t asked for a day off all year so far, but I need this one. I can tell the way the ball is coming out of my hand that I need the extra day.”
Riggleman was asked if he considered Lorenzen one of his best pinch-hitters and he said, “That is a little disrespectful to say that. Jesse Winker is on the bench today and he would be the guy we’d use to help us win a ball game.”
Riggleman did agree that Lorenzen, on days he can’t pitch, is like a fifth extra man on the bench. “Michael has power, he does have power,” he said. “With anybody who has power you have to remind them to use the middle of the field. We need him to have a good at bat and don’t need him to hit a home run.”
SPORTS WRITER GARY SCHATZ came up with an excellent idea for when Milwaukee is in town. “They should rename the Ohio River,” he said. “It should be The River Thames.”
That, of course, is a reference to Milwaukee’s Eric Thames, owner of 14 home runs in his last 22 games against the Reds, seven in 39 at bats in Great American Ball Park.
“What their guy (Thames) does against the Reds is remarkable. What those two guys have done (Thames and Lorenzen). . .what Thames has done against the Reds is remarkable. It’s sad. But it’s remarkable.”
What Thames has done to the Reds is what Barry Bonds used to do to everybody. Riggleman managed against Bonds and when his name was brought up Riggleman said, “If it was a one-run game, you walked Bonds. If he leads off the inning, you walked him. It was that bad. He was ridiculous.
“With Bonds it was against everybody,” said Riggleman. “With Thames it is like, ‘C’,mon, man,’ his numbers are human-like against other clubs. As much as we play them, we have to figure out a way to get him out.”