Price won't make excuses for struggling players

CINCINNATI — Making excuses isn’t something Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price likes to do. If offered a glass of Excuse Kool-Aid he won’t drink it, not even sip it.

Such was the case Sunday when Amir Garrett offered up his second clunker in a row, both coming after layoffs.

The Reds sent him to Class AAA Louisville to save service time and wear-and-tear on his arm. After 12 days off (he didn’t pitch in Louisville) he gave up seven runs and seven hits in five innings against the Indians.

Then he lapsed onto the disabled list with a sore hip and missed 11 days. He returned Sunday and gave up nine runs (eight earned) in 2 2/3 innings against the Atlanta Braves.

THAT’S 15 EARNED RUNS and 14 hits in 7 2/3 innings that includes four walks and seven home runs.

So Price was asked if the layoffs affected Garrett and Garrett aluded to the fact the long layoffs might have contributed to the highly inflated numbers.

Price was having none of it.

“You know me,” he said. “Those questions are like, to heck with that stuff. I’ll never, ever. . .hey, when you don’t perform individually then you don’t get the excuses from the manager. That isn’t life. That’s just this generation’s version of life. I’m not doing it for them. I’m not taking the heat for anybody. You get what you deserve in this game.

“And when you are doing great things, guys earn the praise. Zack Cozart has earned every bit of praise that he has gotten. He started 2014 like 0 for 30 and he received criticism for that,” Price added.

GARRETT WAS THE EARLY SEASON media darling when he won his first two major league starts in April with a 1.47 earned run average. Now this. But Price says there is no reason he can’t return to that.

“This is a part of baseball,” he said. “A player has to perform for a while before he is worthy of being talked about. Amir got off to a great start and was worthy of being talked about, and he still is.

“But he has to overcome the challenges of being a rookie pitcher and that is not to try to do more than you are capable of doing,” Price added. “The game for pitchers is predicated on working ahead and executing pitches. That has not been Amir’s calling card lately, but. . .six of his first eight starts, it was.

“His stuff was way better than the league,” he said. “That’s six out of eight. Guys don’t go into the Reds Hall of Fame in eight starts. So we want him to pitch like a veteran, but he is still a rookie and still has a lot to learn. And he’ll be a better pitcher for it.

“So it is a door that swings both ways,” he added. “These guys are tremendously talented guys and to the victors go th spoils. When they do well they deserve every bit of their accolades.”

AT THESE MOROSE AND DUBIOUS times for the Cincinnati Reds, grasping at positive straws can be like hunting for a Red October.

Yes, the Reds and Amir Garrett took a behind-the-shed whipping Sunday from the Atlanta Braves, 13-8. Finding pitching positives recently is an even bigger challenge.

But there was one Sunday. After Garrett was bludgeoned for nine runs (eight earned) in 2 23 innings Sunday, the Reds sent recently acquired Jake Buchanan to the mound. He didn’t save the game, but he saved the bullpen.

HE PITCHED A STRONG AND stern 5 1/3 innings and held the Braves to two runs and four hits. In addition, Buchanan punched his first major league hit that produced his first major league RBI.

“What a terrific job, under the circumstances,” said manager Bryan Price. “He came into a game in which he was behind, 9-2, and pretty much leaves it there. He threw a ton of strikes, pitched to a lot of early contact with a low pitch-count and a really good tempo. It allowed us to get back into the game.”

Buchanan, 27, was quietly plucked off waivers on May 25 from the Chicago Cubs. The 6-0, 235-pound right hander out of North Carolina State was Houston’s eighth round draft pick in 2010.

He appeared in two games with the Astros in 2014 and in 17 games in 2015 and was released. The Cubs picked him up as a free agent last season and he was 1-0 with a 1.50 earned reun average in two games.

BUCHANAN WAS PRESENTED WITH the ball he swatted for his first hit and said, “It’s going to my pops. He likes to collect that kind of stuff.”

Manager Bryan Price said as Buchanan was getting ready to go to the plate he asked him, “How do you handle the bat?” Said Buchanan, “I can bunt.” Price then said, “Well, how do you swing the bat?” Buchanan said, “Oh, not so good.”

Said Price, “It was funny. He got into a situation where he is not going to be bunting and he takes the first two pitches for strikes and ends up hitting a line drive single to drive in a run.”

OF HIS PITCHING PERFORMANCE, Buchanan said, “I didn’t really realize I went that long. I’d never gone more than five and that was in a start. I just knew they wanted me to eat up innings and get us back in the dugout as soon as possible.

“Warming up, I was all over the place,” he said “But once I got on the mound, the adrenaline began to flow and I saw batters in the box and threw strikes and attacked them. I made some decent pitches and they hit ‘em where we were (on defense). It was attack the zone and let the defense work.”

Price was impressed with Buchanan’s batwork, but the work on the mound was a gigantic boost.

“He came into a game where their lineup had scored nine runs in 2 2/3 innings and that’s a challenge when a team is excited and comfortable at the plate.

“Because of what he did, I didn’t have to use Wandy Peralta or Drew Storen to just finish off a game you weren’t going to win. And you didn’t see (position players) Scooter Gennett or Arismendy Alcantara comingr in to throw the ninth. He saved us for the St. Louis series.

“That’s where the long relief role is so valuable,” he said. “It brought some respectability to a game that was sideways and put us into a better position going into Monday’s game against St. Louis.”

About the Author