Ask Hal: The Reds’ best defensive center fielder? A relief pitcher

Reds center fielder Michael Lorenzen makes a catch against the wall in the ninth inning as left fielder Phillip Ervin watches during a game against the Braves on Tuesday, April 23, 2019, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff
Reds center fielder Michael Lorenzen makes a catch against the wall in the ninth inning as left fielder Phillip Ervin watches during a game against the Braves on Tuesday, April 23, 2019, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff

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: As I browse the schedule is it just me or are there more Reds games than in past years that start after my bed time? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: As usual, just you. And because I don’t know what time you hit the sack I can’t say for sure. The Reds do have a lot of early-season west coast games that start after 10 p.m. Eastern time, but they also are starting night home games at 6:40, which I assume is not past your bed time unless your wife sends you to bed without supper.

Q: Is relief pitcher Michael Lorenzen the best defensive center fielder on the Reds’ roster right now? — JOHN, Cincinnati.

A: Unfortunately, as currently constituted (no more Billy Hamilton), Lorenzen is the best defensive center fielder. I’ll take him over Scott Schebler, Jesse Winker and Phillip Ervin. Yasiel Puig probably is better, but he is only playing right field. Lorenzen made a game-saving catch in left center after a long dash against Atlanta on Tuesday night. Defense in the outfielder has not been good for the Reds so far this season, even when they put four guys out there in some situations. Maybe they should try five.

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Q: Is Joey Votto comfortable in the leadoff spot and if not and the lack of production continues at the top of the order do you see NIck Senzel as the answer? — JEFF, Troy.

A: Joey Votto is comfortable hitting anywhere — the batter’s box, sitting in a rocking chair, riding in a howdah on top of an elephant or from the end of a bungee cord. He cares not where he hit, although I believe eventually he’ll be moved back to the heart of the order. No, Nick Senzel is not the answer. If a team is counting on a rookie who has never played a major league game to jump-start an offense then most likely that offense will be dead in the jungle.

Q: When the Reds played the Cardinals in Monterrey, Mexico both teams wore ‘Ford’ logos on their helmets but are not wearing them in games in the States, so what gives? — CHRIS, Waynesville.

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A: Seems to be a bit of a covert mystery that brings a few shrugs when it is asked about. The prevailing theory is that Ford paid the local promoters to have the logos on the helmets to off-set expenses. Or perhaps it went to the players, who I am told were paid an extra $15,000 to $20,000 to play those two games in Mexico. No, they didn’t pay writers to cover the game or I would have been shopping for a sombrero and a serape.

Q: With one of the top elbow surgeons in the country in Dr. Tim Kremchek on the Reds staff, why did Hunter Greene choose to have his Tommy John surgery elsewhere? — DAVE, Celina.

A: Players have the choice of which doctor puts the scalpel to them and most get several opinions. A player’s agent has a lot to say about it, too. It does seem strange to me, though, because Dr. Kremchek has done successful Tommy John surgery on several pitchers from other teams. He also did my knee surgery and my wife’s knee surgery. I still can’t run worth a lick, but I never could. Both Nadine and I have no pain in our knees. Let’s hope Hunter Greene doesn’t rue the day he had his elbow rebuilt elsewhere.

Q: When and who was the left handed catcher in the major leagues? — JOE, Englewood.

A: I’m left handed, but it wasn’t me. Even if I was right handed, you’d never find me behind the plate. There have been a plethora of catchers who batted left handed, so I assume you mean catchers who threw left handed. From 1894 to 1900, a left handed fellow named Jack Clemens caught more than 1,000 games for the Philadelphia Phillies. The latest I could find was in the late 1980s when left handed Benny DiStevani caught a few games as a back-up for the Pittsburgh Pirates. All three of my sons were catchers and the youngest was a left-handed thrower and caught at Chaminade-Julienne High School. He used my first baseman’s mitt until they had a catcher’s mitt made for him.

Q: What has happened to Scott Schebler’s bat? — TOM, Kettering.

A: I checked the bat rack and saw Schebler’s bat and it seems fine, solid and healthy. Nothing has happened to it. It isn’t the bat. It is never the bat. It is the guy who swings it. And Schebler just isn’t swinging it with accuracy or intensity. As of this writing, he is hitting .150. He pinch-hit with the bases loaded and two outs Wednesday against Atlanta and a new pitcher. He swung at the first pitch and grounded out. When you are in a slump like that shouldn’t you at least take one pitch? Maybe two?

Q: Who are some of your favorite umpires and why? — GREG, Beavercreek.

A: My all-time favorite is Northern Kentucky native Randy Marsh, who is a good friend and sits next to me in the press box for home games as an umpire supervisor. He worked home plate in the Game 7 of th 1992 NLCS and called Braves runner Sid Bream safe at home as he scored from first for a walk-off Atlanta victory that sent them to the World Series. Marsh delighted in telling me this week that he dropped his $10 reading glasses in the toilet and it cost him $150 to unstop it. I also was friends with John McSherry and was in disbelief when he suffered a heart attack at home plate and died during Opening Day, 1996. Hall of Famer Doug Harvey was a favorite, too, because of his authoritarian demeanor. He was such a takeover guy that players actually called him God.


Q: As far as batting orders are concerned, it seems to me that professional players are going to hit or not regardless of where in the lineup and how often does the so-called bottom of the order provide the offense? — VIRGIL, Phoenix.

A: I beg to differ vehemently. Statistics will prove you wrong on this one. It’s why good hitters are at the top of the order and bad hitters are at the bottom. Yes, they are all professional hitters, but some are much better than others. There are times, many times, the bottom of the order comes through. More often than not, though, it is the ‘meat’ of the order doing the damage and managers pray in a close game that the bottom of the other team’s order comes up in the ninth inning. And they also pray, “No walks.”

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