The Cincinnati Reds would like a reset button please. Aside from a late inning victory over defending National League Central Champion St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday, the Reds have had almost nothing go right in the opening week of their 2014 season. One run losses, a walk off home run loss, and another injury made for a lousy week for first year manager Brian Price, as the Reds have struggled to have anything go their way thus far.
To recap, the Reds lost twice to the Cardinals by one run, lost twice to the New York Mets, once by a single run again and Saturday on a walk off home run in the bottom of the ninth. Thus they now find themselves at the bottom of the division with a 1-4 record.
The problems for Cincinnati have come from all over the roster. The bullpen has been shaky, the offense inconsistent, and rookie Billy Hamilton has been awful. The schedule does not let up either, as next week the Reds will travel to St. Louis for a three game set, before hosting the Tampa Rays in Cincinnati next weekend.
Cincinnati General Manager Walt Jocketty had warned as the season started that given the rash of injuries the Reds had suffered, they would have to battle for a while, until they got some of their players back. Jocketty needed a fast start from Hamilton, solid starting pitching, and a patchwork effort by the bullpen without injured closer Aroldis Chapman, to get by until the Reds roster came back together.
Only one of the three has occurred. Hamilton is coming off of a great spring, where he seemed to be rewarding Jocketty’s decision to let Shin-Soo Choo leave via free agency. Five games into the season, Hamilton is hitless, and hurt his finger Friday night, in New York, sliding into second base. He is day-to-day, until he can grip a bat again, but at this point, he seems overwhelmed. In his 12 at bats this season he has struck out six times.
Compounding matters for Hamilton is the fact that middle of the order for Cincinnati has been hot coming out of the gate. Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier have combined for nine RBI, while giving 2011 NL MVP Joey Votto the protection he needed last season. Votto has responded by hitting .316 the first week of the season, with three walks.
The Cincinnati bullpen is in a state of flux, as well. With Chapman out, JJ Hoover became the closer, but he imploded in his first save opportunity of the season Saturday. Hoover faced four Mets and walked two, while another bunted his way on, and the fourth batter he faced hit a game winning walk off grand slam.
The strongest part of the Reds, thus far, has been the starting rotation. Johnny Cueto and Tony Cingrani have been brilliant in three combined starts, giving up just three earned runs in 21 innings. If nothing else, Price should feel comfort that, if he can get Chapman back sooner rather than later, he can get his bullpen set up, and start chalking up some victories.
The Cincinnati Reds and Hamilton will attempt a reset this week. There’s a long season ahead, and plenty of reason to be optimistic if Cueto, Cingrani, Bruce and Frazier can keep this up. Unfortunately for the Reds, it will have to come against the NL Champion Cardinals and the traditionally tough Rays.
Commentary by Mick Varner
Guardian Sports Writer covering the Cincinnati Reds