Ask Hal: Competition for Reds’ rotation spots should be wide open

Hall of Fame baseball writer Hal McCoy knows a thing or two about our nation’s pastime. Tap into that knowledge by sending an email to

Q: Did Barry Larkin throw Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price under the bus when Larkin said he would manage the Reds if asked? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: I have followed the news closely during my nearly eight decades on this earth and have never read about anybody, ever, being thrown under a bus. So, no, he didn’t. But I see you still carry a dislike for Larkin that goes back to his playing days, even though I saw you schmoozing Larkin (autograph selfie) when he appeared last year at the Heart Institute of Dayton fireside chat.

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Q: Manager Bryan Price said it is not open competition for the Reds pitching rotation and I wonder why that is because there isn’t a pitcher there who can say the team should trust his track record? — JEREMY, Kettering.

A: I, too, wondered about that comment. What does that say to all those young pitchers they talk so highly about? What does that do to their confidence? Homer Bailey is the only one with a true track record and he is coming off three surgeries in three years. Anthony DeSclafani missed all of last year and a lot of the year before. But they are ‘guaranteed’ rotation spots? Why? With the team’s status, three straight last-place finishes and a rebuilding program, it certainly should be a wide-open competition for rotation spots.

Q: Players get brought from the minors and sent back down to the minors, so when is a player out of options? — RAY, Cincinnati.

A: A player has three options, but the options are really unlimited for three years. A player can be sent up and down as many times as a team wants in a year. That’s one option. One year. The team can do the same thing in the second year (second option) and the third year (third option). After that, if a team sends a player back to the minors when he is out of options another team can claim him at no cost other than a plane fare and some meal money.

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Q: With MLB’s urgency to shorten game times will it eventually change the rules to three balls for a walk and two strikes for a strikeout? — BILL, Mesa, Ariz.

A: If they do that, Joey Votto would walk 250 times a year and most major leaguers would strikeout 250 times year. That’s not shortening the game, that’s turning it into a colossal bore. But with baseball’s track record of messing with the grand ol’ game it wouldn’t surprise me.

Q: With the Reds recent history of problems with starting pitching why don’t they entertain the idea of signing Jake Arrieta, who wants $150 million but no team is offering him that? — NATHAN, Dayton.

A: The Reds are still in their long-term Reconstruction Era and signing high-end free agents is not on their agenda. They know they are not ready to contend for even a wild card spot, not really trying to win, so why invest big money now? They took enough grief from some fans for giving one of their own players, Homer Bailey, $105 million.

Q: Do you favor the 20-second clock on pitchers and is it the best way to shortening these ever-increasingly longer game? — GARY, Atlanta, Ga.

A: Baseball is one of the few games without a clock and I like it that way. Time never runs out on a team, they have a chance until the last out. What gripes me about all this tinkering is that they aren’t enforced anyway. Remember a couple of years ago when umpires were going to make hitters stay close to the batter’s box between pitches. How has that worked? Umpires don’t enforce it. Now they have the two-minute clock between innings and pitchers are supposed to finish their warm-ups in less than two minutes. I watched that most of last season and it was never enforced. The clock ran out and pitchers kept warming up.

Q: With Nick Senzel being taught by the Reds to play shortstop in addition to him playing third base, wouldn’t it make more sense to have him feel comfortable in the field while he works on becoming a major league hitter? — LARRY, Washington Twp.

A: Don’t think you have to worry about Senzel becoming a major league hitter. He might already be there. Eugenio Suarez is ensconced at third base and isn’t going anywhere. The Reds are leery of Jose Peraza at shortstop and it makes sense to find a spot for Senzel. And don’t worry about the kid’s bat. It’s high velocity.

Q: Do you think pro athletes can make it in two sports like Russell Martin (Seattle quarterback trying baseball) and have their been many do it successfully? — JACKI, Dayton.

A: Many try, few make it. There was, of course, Bo Jackson, the anomaly. There was Deoin Sanders — great at defensive back, average in baseball. Michael Jordan, arguably the all-time best basketball player, tried baseball and failed. Dave DeBusschere played both pro basketball and baseball (pitcher) with moderate success in two short seasons on the mound. Going way back, Gene Conley was a good basketball players for the Boston Celtics and a decent baseball pitcher (11 years, 91-96, 3.82 ERA). To be truly great in a sport, it seems total concentration is needed in the sport in which one is best.

Q: Why did the Reds get rid of announcer Jim Kelch and replace him with Jim Day? — Brendan, Bellbrook.

A: An inside source tells me that the Reds did a survey about their ample stable of announcers. Marty Brennaman, of course, finished first and Jim Day finished second, so the Reds decided to increase Days’s footprint on broadcasts. I’m told Kelch went into a meeting this winter expecting to sign a contract and before he even sat down somebody said, “We’re going forward and you’re not going with us.” No reason was given. I like Kelch, a lot, and he is crushed.


Q: The Reds made only a couple of offseason moves (obtaining relief pitchers Jared Hughes and David Hernandez), so how do you think they did in the offseason? — JAY, Englewood.

A: The Reds were not expected to do big things. They said they needed to address the bullpen and they did that and those guys should be better than what they’ve had recently (anybody would be better than most of what they had). I am intrigued by the acquisition of Ben Revere. Billy Hamilton now can try to bunt while looking over his shoulder because Gentle Ben is lurking.

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