The Real McCoy

Hall of Fame baseball writer Hal McCoy shares his thoughts on the Cincinnati Reds

Wandy has wandered off the track in Reds bullpen

CINCINNATI — Wandy Peralta threw a pitch to Colorado Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez Tuesday night and when the ball came to rest it was 473 feet from home plate, far enough that press box occupants needed binoculars to see it.

That isn’t the longest home run ever hit in Great American Ball Park. That feat belongs to Adam Dunn, ‘The Big Donkey,’ who tagged one that cleared the batter’s eye building in right center, landed on Mehring Way and was found on a piece of driftwood on the banks of the Ohio River, 535 feet from home plate.

Gonzalez’s blast is only the 16th longest in GAPB history, but this isn’t about the guy who hit the ball, a guy who always loosens stitches on baseballs when he faces the Reds.

This is about the guy who pitched him the ball, Cincinnati’s left handed relief pitcher Wandy Peralta. It is about wondering what has happened and what is going on.

A year ago the 26-year-old native of the Dominican Republic was as reliable as a light switch. Just turn him on. He was called upon 69 times last year and was 3-and-4 over 64 2/3 innings with a 3.76 earned run average. He walked 24 and struck out 57.

This year? He is not exactly your trustworthy ol’ hound dog. It is to the point where manager Jim Riggleman is keeping him away from high-stress situations. He is 1-and-2 with a 4.94 earned run average in 32 games over 27 1/3 innings. He walked 24 in 64 2/3 innings last year and has walked 23 already this season in only 27 1/3 innings.

What in the name of Mariano Rivera is going on with this highly regarded relief pitcher?

“We talk about it in here a lot, Danny Darwin and Ted Power,” said manager Jim Riggleman, referring to his pitching coaches. “We just keep waiting for it to turn around, you know? We know how good this kid is.

“It has been a struggle for him, no question,” Riggleman added. “He is a very talented young guy and you know left handers are like gold in the game, especially the way he pitched for us last year.” Peralta and Amir Garrett are the team’s only left handed occupants of the bullpen.

“We fully expected that to be the case in 2018 and we need to have him get it going,” Riggleman added.

And until he gets it going, will Riggleman hold him out of high-pressure situations?

“Lately I have been trying to get him into some softer situations,” he said. “Like last night. We were down by a few (4-1) when he came in.” He walked the first batter and then Gonzalez rattled the stadium with his two-run home run. It turned out big because that put the Reds down, 6-1, and they scored five runs in the last three innings only to lose, 9-6.

“We are trying to get him on a little hot streak,” said Riggleman. “I thought we had done that about 10 days ago, he had a couple of good days in some good situations. I thought, ‘OK, he is ready to take off.’ But it hasn’t happened. We’re still confident that it will. He is a big part of that bullpen, one of the two lefties we have. And he is not just a guy who pitches to lefties. He has the ability to get right handers out, too.”

HOMER BAILEY, WHO SUSPICIOUSY landed on the 10-day disabled list with a knee problem after he was taken out of the rotation, will begin a throwing program Thursday, start playing catch on flat ground and then throw in the bullpen.

Then what? The original plan was to plant him into the bullpen but Bailey balked, saying he had never done it and didn’t think he could be effective doing it.

Judging by what Riggleman said, Bailey will remain a starter.

“He’s anxious to pitch again,” said Riggleman. “He is going to keep throwing an extended amount (of pitches) that would prepare him to continue to start initially, like if he would go out on a rehab start. He would do the rehab as a starter.”

JESSE WINKER WAS IN Wednesday’s lineup, his second straight start, after Riggleman had indicated the four-man outfield rotation was over.

“With all the off days coming up I cannot let Winker have that many days out of the lineup,” said Riggleman. “If you sit him now with all the off days coming up it is just too much.”

After the Reds finish this homestand Sunday against the St. Louis Cardinals, they have three days off over the span of the next five games.

“He is a guy we have to have in there as much as we can against right handed pitchers,” said Riggleman. “It couldn’t be four outfielders out west because we had Billy Hamilton in there every day (to cover expansive outfields in Colorado, Arizona and San Diego). As we get here, a smaller ball park, we can give Billy a day off now and then like we did Tuesday.

“I don’t know that I can label it as anything other than I am just going to try every day to put three of them out there to help us win a ball game,” he added.

THE REDS SPRAYED 17 hits all over GABP’s grass against the Rockies Tuesday, 14 of them singles. But they still lost, 9-6, the first time they’ve had 17 hits in nine innings and still lost since September 5, 1984 — a 15-11 loss to the San Diego Padres.

Once again, timing is everything.

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