Pitcher Tim Adleman saw a group of reporters standing by right fielder Scott Schebler’s locker at Great American Ball Park on Tuesday.
“You guys waiting to talk to Babe Ruth?” Adleman asked.
Schebler needs 689 home runs to catch Ruth. A more realistic goal would be leading the National League in home runs. No Red has done that since George Foster hit 40 in 1978.
Schebler has 13 home runs through 44 games. He’s on pace to hit 47. He trailed Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, who will miss two months with a broken wrist, by one home run through Monday. Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman, of the Nationals, and Eric Thames, of the Brewers, also had 13 home runs.
There’s little in Schebler’s background to suggest he’ll maintain his current pace. His season high in the minor leagues was 28 in 2014. On the other hand, he’s 26 and has exceeded expectations at every level.
“I didn’t get any looks out of high school for baseball,” Schebler said. “I thought it was going to go football. I was a little bit of an underdog my whole career. It puts a little chip on your shoulder. You always want to prove people wrong. It can be a good thing or a bad thing because last year I had a chip on my shoulder and I was trying to prove everything to everybody, thinking ‘I’ve got to show them why they traded for me.’ You saw it in a bad way. I pressed. You’ve go to find ways to use it to benefit you.”
Schebler hit .265 with nine home runs and 40 RBIs in 82 games last season. He earned more playing time in the second half and responded by hitting .323 in September. That performance convinced the Reds to give him the starting job for 2017.
Fans started to question when Schebler slumped in the opening weeks. He was hitting .186 as late as April 25. His average has since climbed to .255, and his home run total keeps climbing. Entering the second game of the Ohio Cup on Tuesday against the Cleveland Indians, Schebler had homered in three straight games.
An early vote of confidence from manager Bryan Price helped Schebler overcome this early struggles.
“He pulled me into the office and said, ‘You’re our guy,’” Schebler said. “He didn’t have to do that, but he did, and it made a world of difference to me. I was still new to this organization a little bit coming here last year. Everybody has been really awesome to me and treated me with a lot respect.”