Four days after saying the season would turn for the better because it always does, the season did turn for Bryan Price — just not in the way he meant.
The Cincinnati Reds fired Price, the 61st manager in franchise history, on Thursday, ending a five-year stretch in which he managed 666 games. His .419 winning percentage and 279-387 record goes down as the worst for any Reds manager who lasted more than three seasons.
With a 2-0 loss Wednesday to the Milwaukee Brewers, Price’s final season in Cincinnati ended with his team owning the worst record in baseball (3-15). General Manager Dick Williams and former GM Walt Jocketty, now a special advisor to CEO Phil Castellini, informed Price and pitching coach Mack Jenkins, who was also let go, of the decision on Wednesday night.
“This was the culmination of a lot of things,” Williams said. “It was not a reaction to any one special incident. This is something that’s come about because of the situation we find ourselves in, which is a product of a lot of things. We felt we had to be proactive and begin the process of fixing what needs to get fixed.”
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Price and Jenkins reacted to the news like professionals, Williams said. Price spent nine years with the Reds in all, serving as pitching coach under Dusty Baker from 2010-13. Jenkins spent 32 years in the organization, the last two as pitching coach for the Reds.
“I think it’s important to say, on behalf of the organization, we expressed our gratitude for what these guys have done,” Williams said. “They’re really good people. They’re good baseball guys. Mack’s had a really long career with the Reds, and Bryan’s had a long career as well. They’ve given a lot to this organization and been through some lean years.”
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The Reds, who are off to their worst start since 1931, were off Thursday and start a three-game series in St. Louis on Friday. Bench coach Jim Riggleman takes over as interim manager.
“We’re going to hit the ground running tomorrow with Jim in place and a couple new members of the staff,” Williams said. “We’re very focused on creating a sense of urgency for these guys to perform now. We talk about rebuilding, and there’s things going on away from the field and in the farm system and investments in the franchise that are part of that rebuilding process, but when guys show up to work every day, they need to have a sense of urgency to win that day. They need to take care of the details on the field. They need to play hard. They need to play smart. They need to play it right. That we can control, and we need to get this team playing that way because we know they have the ability to do it. That is the short-team immediate focus.”
The Reds will conduct a search for a permanent manager later in the year. For now, it’s Riggleman’s team. His bench coach is Pat Kelly, who was promoted from Triple-A Louisville, where he was managing the Bats, and his pitching coach is Danny Darwin, who was the pitching coach at Double-A Pensacola.
“It’s not the circumstances anybody wants to get the job under,” said Riggleman, who was Price’s bench coach for three seasons. “Bryan Price is a great man and great friend. I’m concerned about Bryan. The opportunity to manage, it’s something I love to do. I’ve always taken on that challenge with various clubs. It’s a passion for me. I look forward to it. But this is not the circumstances that you want it to happen in.”
Price is the sixth Reds manager to lose his job during a season since 1993. He didn’t even last as long as Tony Perez, who was fired 44 games into the 1993 season.
“We felt we had to act now and couldn’t afford to wait,” Williams said. “I know it seems early in the year to some people, and it certainly is early in the regular season, but we’ve been thinking of the 2018 season since the day the 2017 season ended, and we had all offseason to prepare. We were out in Arizona for six weeks. We feel we’re well into the 2018 season. We’ve had a lot of chances to observe this group together and see them get off to the kind of start we hoped, and it’s not there. We felt like now was the right time to do something about it.”