GOODYEAR, Ariz. — The Cincinnati Reds first full squad workout was on Monday morning in a brisk overcast setting. Perhaps the most unique image presented itself early when a shiny red golf cart approached with two special occupants.
The 74-year-old driver was returning to spring training following some major health concerns in recent years. Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan now always needs a cane but looked and sounded great. His passenger was team owner Bob Castellini.
Morgan is always up to date on the current Reds but is glad to recall special moments of his years as one of the game’s premier players and the engine of the vaunted Big Red Machine. A friend and I had been discussing the 1976 World Series, especially third baseman Pete Rose playing about 40 feet from the plate against Yankees speedster Mickey Rivers. Joe was the right guy to ask and friend Gary framed the situation that led to an enthusiastic response.
“We met to review our defensive plan for the Yankees,” Morgan began. “(Manager) Sparky Anderson told Pete to play tight against Rivers. Pete said he’d take care of it. When the Series opened, there was Pete playing closer than any third baseman we’d ever seen. It worked and he stayed there throughout the four game sweep (by the Reds).”
I always enjoy seeing the owner and reminding him I’m from Sidney which leads him to remember his sister and brother-in-law, longtime Sidney mainstays Jerry and Marianne Wagner, now both deceased. Bob Castellini is very visible at spring training and mixes with fans and employees alike.
The full team has four days together on the fields of Goodyear before exhibition games begin on Friday. Following are other nuggets from my first ten days in the west Phoenix suburbs.
Free agency brought reliever Jared Hughes to the Reds from division rival Milwaukee and he’s immediately fit in with both his teammates and media interviews. The righty also worked for the Pirates in the same division.
I enjoy up close views of another righty, starting pitcher Luis Castillo, who’s a hard thrower with sharp breaking pitches. He could be headed toward elite status.
Lefty Cody Reed seems ticketed for the bullpen and is enjoying an excellent camp. “He’s throwing well and excelling in every drill,” says manager Bryan Price who likes the depth of the pitching staff. “If the group stays healthy, our final roster cuts will be the most difficult since I became manager(fifth year).”
One camp pitcher who won’t make the team this spring wears number 80. I mention him because he threw a dazzling session of “live” batting practice when the pitcher is trying to retire the hitter. Tanner Rainey was congratulated by his catcher and the several guys who faced him. The right hander was a second round draft choice in 2015. Let’s see where he is in a few years.
Third base prospect Nick Senzel is also learning to play shortstop and looking good doing it. His personal tutor is Hall of Famer Barry Larkin.
As usual I’ve discussed some of everything with Marty Brennaman who’s entering his 45th season as the Reds radio voice. He hints that 2019 could be his final season but won’t decide until then. When he does retire, he will go quietly with no early announcement.
Marty agrees with me that last summer’s reincarnation of the TV Gong Show was a rousing success. We’re both pleased that it will be returning.
General manager Dick Williams has added personnel to scout the Pacific Rim for both amateur and professional talent. I met one of the scouts and he was already familiar with Fort Loramie outfielder Jared Hoying who is joining the South Korean major league this season.
Hoying played briefly with Reds utility candidate Patrick Kivlehan when both were in the Texas organization. When I mentioned Jared’s name, his big smile lit up.
After attending Cincinnati workouts for over a week I switched to the San Diego Padres in Peoria on Thursday morning where North Star relief pitcher Craig Stammen no longer has to worry about making the team. “I probably won’t pitch in a game until March,” said the owner of a new two year major league contract.
The Ohio State Buckeyes are out here for four games against Utah and Oregon State in the home complex of the Rangers and Royals in Surprise, just north of here. Minster’s Adam Niemeyer will get the ball on Saturday afternoon against Utah.
Let the games begin. See you next Friday…..
Award-winning columnist Dave Ross is covering his 28th consecutive spring training. Look for these reports each Friday until the Reds head back to Cincinnati for opening day.