Getting up for a second-round World Baseball Classic game against Puerto Rico, complete with 30,000-or-so screaming fans?
But squaring off with the Royals in front of a Goodyear Ballpark spring training crowd that seems as interested in the between-inning fitness seminars? That’s a bit more difficult.
Reds manager Dusty Baker said he’s not worried about Brandon Phillips’ slow spring, one in which he’s had nine hits and has yet to steal a base.
After playing for the United States in the WBC, Phillips had hits in two of his next 11 at-bats with the Reds. But after a first-inning single against the Royals on Thursday, Cincinnati’s starting second baseman had put together a meager but positive three-game hitting streak.
“He’s getting there. It’s been a while,” Baker said. “He’s fine.”
Baker said the laid-back approach at spring training makes for a difficult contrast from the charged WBC setting, some of which was held at nearby Chase Field.
“You come from high intensity back to low intensity. There aren’t that many fans out. There were a lot of fans where he came from, a lot of noise, a lot of music playing and people excited. It’s a little bit of a downer,” Baker said. “You go from a situation where everything counts to a situation where nothing counts. You’ve gotta fool yourself.”
Hoover happy: A number of relief pitchers are still vying for the final few roster spots, including J.J. Hoover, who finished last season with Cincinnati.
Hoover, who was scheduled to throw on Thursday, had allowed two earned runs in his first nine appearances of the spring. That followed a scintillating showing at Louisville last year when the righty posted a 1.22 ERA in 30 outings.
Although he was originally considered a long shot to make the final roster, Hoover said on Thursday that he’s exactly in the position he expected.
“I’m definitely happy with the way camp has gone. But when you go into a camp, especially after finishing with the team last year, I had expectations of breaking with the team,” Hoover said.
Hoover, who has 18 strikeouts in 10 innings, said he hasn’t altered anything and he’s hoping to help the team get back into the playoffs. As high as his personal aspirations are, he’s got similar goals for the team.
“I’ve had the same kind of approach for the past few years and it’s working for me, so I just keeping sticking with it,” Hoover said. “Since I was a part of that playoff team last year, we were pretty devastated with the way things ended. Everyone in this clubhouse has high expectations for this year. We plan to go past what we did last year.”
Of course, Hoover has yet to make the roster and he has stiff competition from the likes of Logan Ondrusek and Manny Parra.
As for Ondrusek, he’s struggled at times, including a poor showing on March 24, when he surrendered four earned runs in less than an inning.
“His command and his velocity’s down some. When that’s down, and the more you try to create velocity, the less velocity you have,” Baker said of Ondrusek. “He said he’s healthy. It’s a little bewildering to us, and I’m sure it is to him too.”
Meanwhile, Parra had given up an earned run in five of his last seven appearances prior to Thursday, but Baker hinted that his previous body of work might weigh into the decision.
“I’ve seen Manny better than he’s been here. Fortunately for us, we’ve seen him on the other side, we’ve seen him very good,” Baker said. “It’ll probably be a situation much like Billy Bray was last year, a need for the second lefty, or to take pressure off (Sean) Marshall earlier in the game or if Marshall’s gone three or four days in a row.”
Extra bases: Mat Latos helped his cause on Thursday, knocking in Ryan Hanigan with a second-inning single that gave the Reds a 2-0 advantage. He then gave the lead back, however, as the Royals scored five runs in the top of the third with Alex Gordon’s home run the biggest blow. Latos finished with three innings of work and nine hits surrendered. … Speaking of Hanigan, he’s starting to heat up as the spring comes to a close. His double in the second gave him eight hits in his last 20 at-bats, including three extra-base hits. … Friday, Bronson Arroyo is slated to get his final exhibition start, with Sam LeCure, Aroldis Chapman and Marshall all expected to follow.