In baseball terms, Bryan Price’s walk to the mound at Great American Ball Park took nearly as long as the Cincinnati Reds’ search for a new manager.
Just 18 days after friend Dusty Baker was fired, Price was introduced as the 61st manager in team history on Tuesday. The Reds considered two in-house candidates — Price and Triple-A Louisville manager Jim Riggleman. In the end, only Price interviewed.
After peppering Price with questions during a three-hour interview, general manager Walt Jocketty and owner Bob Castellini knew they had their man. Price, who signed a three-year deal, has no managerial experience at any professional level. He was informed of the decision Saturday.
“To be honest with you, I was convinced Bryan was our guy,” Jocketty said. “To bring other people in just for the process of going through an interview, I didn’t want that. It’s not fair.”
Price spent the past four seasons as Reds pitching coach, all under Baker, who finished 509-463 in six seasons. Price’s pitching staffs set club records for strikeouts in 2012 (1,248) and again in 2013 (1,296). The Reds’ staff also became the first in major-league history to have at least six pitchers with 100 strikeouts in consecutive seasons. The team’s 17 shutouts were the most for the organization since 1973.
Price becomes the third current manager to have been a pitching coach, joining San Diego’s Bud Black and Boston’s John Farrell. That lack of offensive experience doesn’t concern Price, who smacked his answer out of the park when asked about running an offense.
“In the dugout I always reminded Joey (Votto) to line up his knuckles before he hits,” Price said. “I’m not here to teach hitting and, necessarily, offense. What I’m here to do is put people in positions that are going to continue to enhance our ability to thrive offensively.”
The Reds lacked offense when they needed it most this season. Cincinnati lost its last five games of the regular season, including a season-ending sweep to Pittsburgh. The Pirates then knocked the Reds out of the postseason with a 6-2 victory in the wild card game. The lack of a must-win attitude did in Baker.
Price is looking to change that mentality throughout the organization.
“It’s a team that’s capable of doing even more,” he said. “I think we certainly should talk very optimistically about the three playoff appearances in the last four years, which were maybe somewhat discredited because we hadn’t gotten beyond the first round.
“Considering where we were the first 15 years prior, it was definitely a huge step in the right direction. But we all have expectations of getting beyond that. … I want to create an identity as a team that nobody wants to play us.”
Price declined to discuss the status of second baseman Brandon Phillips’ swirling trade rumors or the option of moving fireballing reliever Aroldis Chapman to the starting rotation. First is finding his coaches.
As for the Reds’ front office, they feel they’ve found the first piece to assembling a staff to compete with the NL champion St. Louis Cardinals and the Pirates in an NL Central Division that sent three teams to the playoffs.
“Bryan is exceptional and we’ve been with him long enough to know how exceptional he is,” Castellini said. “Bryan, to quote (pitcher Bronson Arroyo), is really freaking intelligent. He knows baseball very well and he knows the game. And he loves the Reds. And if we hadn’t kept him here, he would have gone elsewhere, I’m sure.”