Mark Berry has been a fixture in the Reds organization, wheeling runners home for the last decade from his spot as the team’s third base coach.
He intends to hold down that post despite the news he announced to team on Sunday morning.
Berry, who is now in his 30th year with the franchise, told the Reds during the morning meeting that he has cancer of the lymph nodes.
Manager Dusty Baker said prior to the team’s contest against the Rangers at Surprise Stadium that Berry has a supportive staff of cancer survivors who include himself, Eric Davis and athletic trainer Paul Lessard.
“Modern medicine’s really something. The further we go, it seems like cancer’s not stopping, but it seems like there’s a better chance to live,” Baker said. “A few years ago, when you heard the word the Big C, you thought it was over. But not now. Especially if you catch it early.”
Berry was originally drafted by the Reds in 1984 and toiled in the minors for seven seasons before becoming a coach and then manager at Cedar Rapids. He never jumped ship.
Baker said he won’t change the way he handles Berry, with whom he’s worked throughout his time as the team’s manager.
“He wasn’t feeling bad before. Sometimes, you don’t know you’re sick until they tell you you’re sick. If you allow yourself to think sick, you’re going to be sick,” Baker said. “I’m not gonna hold him back. If he doesn’t feel well, he doesn’t feel well. He’s not looking for sympathy. He’s looking for support.”
Slow starter: With the pressure off in terms of competition for a spot in the starting lineup, Ryan Ludwick hasn’t exactly been lighting up the Cactus League this spring, hitting safely just eight times in 45 at-bats. Ludwick was off on Sunday, but got some extra work at the team’s minor-league camp earlier this week.
Baker said he’s not too concerned with Ludwick, who hit just .239 through the first half of last season, but then led the team in the second half with 14 homers and a .309 average.
“He has a lot of movable parts. He doesn’t have a simple swing,” Baker said of Ludwick. “I didn’t really know what to do with him until I had him. Once I see what I have, you don’t worry because you know he’s kind of a late starter. The key is to get him not to worry.”
The good news is Ludwick is trending up as the team enters its final week in Arizona. Ludwick has a three-game hitting streak, including a pair of hits on Saturday.
Ludwick wasn’t the only player to get in some extra swings with the minor leaguers as Jack Hannahan and Zack Cozart did so on Sunday and Ryan Hanigan has previously been in the camp.
“Whoever I think needs some at-bats,” Baker said. “When you’re an older player, it takes you longer to get your timing.”
News on Latos: Mat Latos avoided a catastrophic start to his season when an X-ray returned negative after he had a ball ring off his ankle late during Saturday’s contest.
Latos had been progressing nicely this spring prior to the nine-hit, four-run outing against the Rangers that ended when Geovany Soto hit the liner that knocked him out of the contest. Latos is expected to make one last start before the regular season opens.
“He should be all right. He iced it all night,” Baker said. “He was carrying his crutches.”
Extra bases: Sam LeCure threw an inning for Triple-A Louisville on Sunday, getting in a little extra work. LeCure struck out two batters as the Bats squared off with Iowa. … Bronson Arroyo gave up a two-run homer to Lance Berkman in the fourth inning. It was only the second homer Arroyo has given up this spring. In 2011, Arroyo surrendered 46 homers, the most in the majors. … Homer Bailey is slated to get the start today when the Reds host the Seattle Mariners in Goodyear, where the team plays three of the next four days. … The Reds will close out spring training with split-squad games on Saturday, including one at Goodyear against the Indians. Baker said the starters, however, will play against the Diamondbacks at Chase Field in downtown Phoenix.