Ask Hal: In wake of Scooter Gennett injury, any chance Reds sign Brandon Phillips?

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: Was former third base coach Billy Hatcher our last memento of the Cincinnati Reds 1990 World Series championship? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Beavercreek/Centerville.

A: How quickly you forget. OK, so it was 29 years ago, but there are still remnants of that team hanging around the Reds. Remember Barry Larkin? You should. You ranted and railed against him the whole team he played for the Reds during his Hall of Fame career. Remember Eric Davis, the man who sacrificed his body and lacerated his kidney diving for a ball in that World Series? Well, both Larkin and Davis still work for the Reds as special advisors and roving instructors. And they delight in recounting their experiences to the young players in the system.

Q: With Scooter Gennett out for eight to 12 weeks what is the possibility of the Reds signing free agent Brandon Phillips, currently without a team? — DAVE, Dayton.

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A: About as much chance as there is of me driving in a NASCAR race (remember, I’m legally blind and can’t drive) or of Johnny Manziel returning to the Cleveland Browns. No chance — zero, zip, nada. Phillips is 37 years old and back in 2016 when the Reds traded him to Atlanta he had lost a step or two on defense. The Reds were so anxious to trade him they got nothing for him. They acquired Cuban-born Carlos Portuondo and he played in one minor league game and the Reds released him. They also acquired pitcher Andrew McKirahan and he pitched one year in the minors and was released. He then signed with the Sugar Land Skeeters in independent ball and was released there, too.

Q: Nick Senzel seems to get hurt getting out of bed and he is hurt again, so now what do the Reds do? — BOB, Washington Twp.

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A: What they need to do is encase him in sponge and bubble wrap when they send him on the field. It is concerning, or at least it should be, that Senzel does seem injury prone. But the team can’t tell him not to slide, not to dive for balls, not to use scissors. When he is healthy and ready, they stick him back in center field at Class AAA Louisville and let get back into playing condition and call him up when he has enough time in the minors that his call-up is late enough so that the Reds don’t lose a year of control over him. That’s what sending him to the minors was all about in the first place, to prevent the clock from starting on his service time. It is proof that baseball is not all about entertainment, baseball is not all about sports, baseball is all about business.

Q: Didn’t the Reds say they were going to spend more money this offseason? What happened? — MARK, Kettering.

A: It is so easy to spend other people’s money, right? I don’t recall anybody on the Reds saying they were going to spend more money. What they kept saying was that they had the money to spend, not that they would spend it. And they said the payroll would be the highest it has ever been. They were right. The payroll this year is $133 million, topping their highest payroll by $17 million ($116 million in 2016). Of course, inflation contributes, too. And they didn’t so much spend money to sign players as they did investing in players already signed to contracts like Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Tanner Roark and Alex Wood. The only real spending they did was the $31.5 million extension they gave pitcher Sonny Gray.

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Q: If a player pinch hits for the pitcher and gets a hit and the team bats around and he bats again and gets another hit is the second hit also considered a pinch hit? — BOB, Dayton.

Q: No, only one pinch-hit single per customer per at bat. When he comes up the second time he is considered already in the lineup, whether he stays in the game after the inning or not. How can he be considered a pinch-hitter the second time he comes to bat? You can’t pinch-hit for yourself. His first at bat hit goes down as a pinch-hit and his second at bat hit goes down as a position player.

Q: Have you seen any other Reds player used as a pitcher and an outfielder like Michael Lorenzen? — JEFF, Troy.

A: Many position players come in to lost-cause games to finish up messes made by real pitchers. But not many actually play both. There was a player named Brooks Kieschnick who was a pitcher/outfielder in the same manner as Lorenzen might be. He most played for the Chicago Cubs as an outfielder but in the twilight of his career in Milwaukee he was a relief pitcher/outfielder/pinch-hitter. He actually played a few games for the Reds in 2000, but only as a pinch-hitter/outfielder. In batting practice he hit mammoth upper deck home runs. In games for the Reds he batted 13 times and was 0 for 12 with a walk and five strikeouts, about the same batting average I would have had.

Q: With replay/review, do you miss the manager/umpire arguments like baseball had with Billy Martin and Earl Weaver? — TIM, Xenia.

A: You forgot my all-time favorite, Sweet Lou Piniella, who was not so sweet with umpires with failing vision. Lou would kick dirt on home plate and throw down his hat and kick it. And there was the day in Cincinnati when he was manager of the Reds when umpire Dutch Rennert missed a call at first base. Piniella raced (well, trotted) to first base and argued. Then he lifted first base off its anchor and heaved it into right field. Unhappy with his distance, he retrieved the bag and flung it deeper into right field. That one should be in the Tantrum Hall of Fame.

Q: Since this week was the anniversary of Randy Johnson vaporizing a pigeon in Toronto, what was the scoring decision on the play? — MIKE, Englewood

A: The scoring? One dead pigeon. Actually, though, it was a mourning dove and it was in Tucson, Ariz. during a spring training game. Johnson was on the mound for the Diamondbacks and Calvin Murray was batting for the Giants. Johnson threw one of his 100 miles an hour fastballs and halfway to home plate there was a feathery explosion. The pitch obliterated the mourning dove. After some consultation (this certainly isn’t in the rule book) the umpires ruled it a no-pitch. The mourning dove begs to differ. PETA later filed a law suit against Johnson for cruelty to animals but the suit, uh, didn’t fly.


Q: Do you think free agency as we have known it is changing given thoe lack of activity the last two years other than the big names? — RON, Vandalia.

A: If I say yes I might get subpoened to testifty when the players file collusion charges against the owners. The players do believe the owners are not signing as many free agents. Other than a few instances, as in $350 million for Bryce Harper, teams are investing more money in giving their own players contract extensions, with the Angels leading the way with their $430 million extension for Mike Trout. With all that big money teams toss around and all the teams interested in signing Harper and Manny Machado, why aren’t those teams that lost out on Harper and Machado investing in other free agents? There are a lot of talented free agent players still looking for jobs. To answer your question in a word: yes.

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