Ask Hal: Rookie pitchers a bright spot for Reds

Hall of Fame baseball writer Hal McCoy knows a thing or two about our nation’s pastime. Tap into that knowledge by sending an email to

Q: Back in the day we heard about players sharing a room on the road, so can I assume that all players today get a suite to themselves? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: Never assume. Each player gets his own room, but not a suite. There are times when a couple of young players might ask to be road roomies. The manager and the big stars get a suite and some high-end players have it written into their contracts that they get a suite on the road. When I traveled with the Reds, my room usually doubled as a linen closet.

Q: It has been a frustrating season to be sure, but what’s the most encouraging storyline this year — JON, Washington, Mo.

A: It must be the emergence of starting pitchers Nick Lodolo and Graham Ashcraft. Both are legit. Perhaps Hunter Greene will join them after a tough season where he hopefully learned a good slider is better than a straight 101 mph fastball that major league hitters crush. I like what I saw from T.J. Friedl, Donovan Solano and Kyle Farmer, but who knows if they’ll be with the Reds next season.

Q: Where do you think Joey Votto fits in for next season? — JIM, Kettering.

A: Votto is determined to come back and re-establish himself as a productive player. It is good for him that the designated hitter is in the National League because I see him DHing a lot. And he will be back at first base for his last season for many games. It is doubtful that the Reds will compete next season, so the club can use him for his star power.

Q: With the way Aristides Aquino throws and with his lack of hitting have the Red considered using him to pitch the way Mel Queen did back in the 60′s. — JIM, Fairfield.

A: Yes, Aquino’s throws from the outfield have been clocked at 99 mph. But throwing hard isn’t what pitching is all about. There must be movement. Just ask Hunter Greene. In his four years with the Reds, Mel Queen was 14-8 with a 2.76 earned run average in 1967. The other three years he made only 14 mound appearances. Mostly he was a pinch-hitter and fill-in right fielder. He tore his rotator cuff in 1968, before Tommy John surgery was discovered, and that ended his pitching career.

Q: Who helped the Reds more, all hit and no defense Alex Johnson or all defense and no hit Aristides Aquino. — GREG, Beavercreek.

A: Depends on what the team needed on a particular day. If it was offense, count on Johnson but not on Aquino. If it was defense, count on Aquino but not Johnson.

There was a game where Johnson dropped a fly ball, but Pete Rose was next to him and caught the deflection. A few games later, it happened again, but Rose couldn’t catch the ball Johnson deflected and Johnson said, “Where were you when I needed you?”

Q: Do you think Albert Almora Jr. will ever become the hitter he was predicted to be, and do you think he is affected by the little girl he hit with a foul ball? — JIM, Hayesville.

A: When Almora played for the Chicago Cubs in 2019, he hit a 2-year-old girl with a foul ball that caused permanent brain damage. Almora can’t be blamed for that, but nice guy that he is he is deeply concerned. It is doubtful, though, that he thinks of the incident while batting, unless he lines a foul ball into the seats and has a flashback. Fans need not worry about Almora’s hitting. I doubt he will be back. In 62 games, his slash line is .226/.283/.354 and he is eligible for salary arbitration. He made $1.57 million with the Cubs and the Reds signed him for $700,000.

Q: Will we see Albert Pujols hit his 700th home run and Aaron Judge it 62 homers this season? — JOE, Kettering.

A: My crystal ball hasn’t worked since Marge Schott threw it around her office for Schottzie 02 to fetch. But I am pulling for both. Pujols is a class act and an inspiration for his St. Louis Cardinals teammates. There isn’t’ a left-handed pitcher in baseball right now who wants to face him. As for Judge, even though he is right handed, he keeps peppering that short right field porch in Yankee Stadium and if he doesn’t hit 62, he’ll come close.

Q: If you had to assemble a basketball team from former Reds players, who would you choose? — KEVIN, Centerville.

A: Back in the early stages of The Big Red Machine, the Reds had a traveling basketball team of their players in the winter, playing game for charity, mostly against high school faculties. The front office put a stop to it, fearing injuries.

My team: Start with Amir Garrett (6-foot-6, 239), who played at St. John’s University and with his temperament would be our enforcer. The point guard would be Eric Davis (6-2, 165), heavily recruited for basketball out of Fremont High School in South Los Angeles, Hal Morris (6-3, 200), captain of his Munster, (Ind.) High School basketball team, Dave Parker (6-5, 230), one of the all-time best athletes at Cincinnati Courter Tech and Jerry Spradlin (6-7, 230). That’s a big, tough team.

Q: What is your best Jack McKeon story? —WILL, Edgewood, Ky.

A: Too many to tell, both when Trader Jack managed the Reds and the Marlins. I could fill three chapters in a book. In this space it has to be short. Before games, Jack invited me into his closet-sized office in Riverfront Stadium and we would fill the room with impenetrable cigar smoke almost until game time. I asked him why we did this. McKeon was no fan of general manager Jim Bowden and said, “Bowden doesn’t like cigar smoke, so he won’t come in here bothering me with his nonsense.”

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