Matthew McAdow. Photo provided

By Matthew McAdow

Herald Contributor

The Future is Now

In a shocking move (or at least shocking to me), the Cincinnati Reds committed to the playoff push by calling up the final addition to the roster, Noelvi Marte.  I hate that Marte hasn’t been given the same hype that the rest of the young rookies were given, as Marte is on the same level of each of them.  Marte has the ability to get on base, has quite an arm, and quickly can fill a needed spot in the Reds lineup.  The questioning narrative from a small group on Twitter had many of us who keep up with this team quite confused, as there is more than enough room for Marte with injuries to India and Fraley.  Have you watched this offense as of late? They need a spark.  Aside from the injuries, T.J. Hopkins and Stuart Fairchild are still getting regular at-bats that Marte should be taking over.  Now that Fairchild is injured, there is even more reason for the call-up of the number 49 prospect in all of baseball. As I watched the game on Sunday, I was thrilled to see an infield consisting of all rookies in Marte, De La Cruz, McLain, and Encarnacion-Strand.  The future is now!

  • 1B – Votto/Ces
  • 2B – McLain/India when healthy
  • 3B – Marte/De La Cruz
  • SS – De La Cruz/McLain
  • LF – Steer
  • CF – Friedl
  • RF – Benson
  • Spot Starts Depending on Pitchers – Fraley, Fairchild, Newman
  • DH – Votto/CES/India

Playoff Push

There are 162 games in a major league season, which leaves 37 games left for our beloved Redlegs. Cincinnati currently has a record of 64-61, which leaves them 4 games back in the National League Central.  In terms of the Wildcard, they are only 1 game back and in all honesty, this might be the more realistic route for them to get in the playoffs.  I still think they have the ability to win the Central, but they no longer have any games left against the Brewers to gain ground quick. 

Now that we are in the final stretch of baseball, this team has to start treating every game like a playoff game.  Every single game matters at this point.  Bullpen load aside, this is the time where we have to come together.  We have an upcoming series against a tough Angels team, followed by the Diamondbacks and Giants.  Good teams find ways to grind out victories in August and September.  It’s time for this young team to solidify that they are a good team and I think they are going to do just that. 

Trade Deadline Still Being Discussed

The trade deadline being called a disappointment has become quite the lazy narrative for me regarding the Cincinnati Reds.  I think people think we could have just acquired arms without giving anyone up.  If you really think this is the year that Cincinnati should go all in, would you have been willing to give up top players such as Steer, CES, or McLain?  I didn’t think so.  After Hunter Greene had a very disappointing return, people were blaming the front office for not making a move at the deadline.  Trust me when I say Greene would have made a start no matter who we acquired.  Remember when we traded Tyler Mahle at the deadline and ended up with Steer, CES, and Benson (through another trade).  Getting pitchers at the deadline result in giving up the farm.  I don’t know about you, but I want to see sustained success for a long time and a rotation of Greene, Abbott, Ashcraft, Lodolo, and Williamson is more than capable of getting the job done when they are healthy and firing at their ability. 

Q&A with Reds Pitching Coach Derek Johnson

Q: When you go out for a mound visit, what is your approach in communication with a struggling pitcher?

A: “I think the first thing you are looking for is an out.  Depending on the guy, there are plenty of places to go, but first and foremost, you are looking for an out.  Anyway you can get it is a good way, but it depends on your relationship with the pitcher.  There isn’t a magic formula or one size fits all.  A lot of times it is very simple to give the guy a break.  We might talk about a first pitch or sometimes it even is more simple than that.  It’s never anything mechanical, generally speaking.  It becomes almost mundane, if you will.  I spend a lot of time looking at their face or expressions to see what we need to do and really read body language.”

Q: What part of your job do you enjoy the most?

A: “I love being on the field with the players or even in the bullpen to figure out what the next steps are, whether that is about delivery or pitches.  It really is just about seeing young people and see them increase their skill.  They usually are full of ability, which is why they are in the big leagues.  They were blessed one way or the other, so for me it is kind of taking where that person is in their baseball life and get them 1 percent better.  I talk about 1 percent a lot and usually that is building better skill, whether it is a pitch or movement or even an understanding of themself.  It really is about building trust with the players to help them get a little better at a time.”

Q: What is the toughest part of your job?

A: “Honestly, the toughest part is failing with them.  When things aren’t going well for them on the field, it is affecting them personally too.  You are there the best you can, to help them through those stages and almost feeling that pain right along with them.  Because of that, you are wearing it on your sleeve and trying to figure out ways to help.  It’s the empathy that you feel for the guy.”

Q: When dealing with a new pitcher for the first time, what is the first few things that you are looking at?

A: “Well, the first thing is that we have a good bit of information on each of these guys.  That’s the good thing with baseball now, as there are plenty of things in which we know about their history and where the pitcher has been.  You sort of understand how the person is going about getting people out.  You take that information, try to get to know the pitcher, and really try to get them comfortable.  You are trying to find out who he really is.”

Q: What is the most memorable story from your career?

A: “Oh geez, that’s a good one.  There are so many, but I think when we were one step away from going to the World Series with the Brewers in 2018.  That whole year was a rollercoaster.  We were a good team, but we weren’t great until the end.  We celebrated and had really cool celebrations in a matter of days.  Watching the team grow in that short amount of time and I even felt that in 2020 with the Reds, even though it was a shortened season.  Being able to celebrate going to the playoffs in major league baseball is one of the most exhilarating moments that you can be a part of.  It’s the happiest that you have ever seen everyone.  To see that from Spring Training to the end of the season, it’s exhilarating.”

Q: If you had the ability to add any past pitcher who is no longer on any roster, who would you choose?

A: “It’s easy to say Bob Gibson or a great, but I would stick to the guys I know.  David Price comes to my mind right away, as he was the ultimate competitor.  Watching him grow up before my own eyes and see him with the career he had, he is the guy for me that personally knowing, he would be the guy I would want to stick my name to.”

Q: For a young player, even a young teen, what is your advice for them to develop as a pitcher?

A: “Young people are chasing velocity and I don’t blame them.  It is hard to pass by a guy with velocity and a good arm, but really the fundamental flaw is the idea of how to pitch.  It’s one thing to have a great arm, but it’s completely different to know how to use it.  The number one thing in the big leagues is throwing strikes.  The staffs at the top are the teams who throw strikes.  Knowing how to utilize your pitches in the strike zone ends up being the most important.”

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