The Cincinnati Reds kicked off their 2018 winter caravan Thursday, and the first stop on the northern leg produced a fun Q&A with fans.
We’ve got video from the event and a summary of what was discussed as general manager Dick Williams, broadcasters Jeff Brantley and Jim Day, former first baseman Todd Benzinger, pitcher Amir Garrett and minor-league catcher Tyler Stephenson bantered with fans in central Ohio.
Williams said the team will consider service time when it comes to where Nick Senzel starts the season, but they will make room for him if he earns it.
Beyond that, Triple-A provides valuable experience because there are former major-leaguers there who provide some different looks compared to the lower levels of the minors.
The struggles of some of the team’s pitching prospects in the majors were evidence of the value of time in Triple-A.
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Regarding analytics, Williams said there has been a major evolution in the last 10 years.
They have gone from just radar guns to doppler radars that capture every piece of information you can imagine about the pitched ball, batted ball and movement of every fielder on the field. Now they have to figure out what to do with all that information to make it useful. That is harder than it sounds, and they are building staff to do it.
They can’t overload people, either, so it has to be actionable and understandable. The team employs people whose whole job is to translate numbers into graphics and stuff they can see and understand and use.
He said Buddy Bell has been a great addition to the staff because he is an experienced baseball guy with a lot of friends around the game.
Also there’s a very good chance Bronson Arroyo is with the team in spring training as an adviser for the young guys. That’s not certain yet though.
Brantley’s advice for young pitchers: Learn how to control your fastball on both sides of the plate before trying to throw a changeup.
After that, consider a curveball — but not until age 14.
Garrett agreed: “Just command your fastball and work hard.”
Asked about the rise in velocity across baseball over the past few years, Brantley cited better athletes.
He noted there has been a different focus on nutrition and physical development over the last 20 years and also suggested the concern about head injuries in football could have played a role.
Benzinger said the fast start by the 1990 World Series team was really important.
That helped them have confidence later in the season when teams started to catch. They knew they were good, so they could weather some storms.
Also Lou Piniella’s surliness might have been a good motivator for the club: “The guy wanted to win, and because of that you wanted to make sure he was happy at the end of the game, and he was only happy if you won. That’s probably one of the reasons we played so well.”
He joked catching the last out of World Series in Oakland wasn’t that big a deal but then admitted he wasn’t completely sure it was the third out.
“You don’t want to have two outs and start celebrating… when I catch the ball if you ever see it again, I take a look out at shortstop and see Barry Larkin jumping about 10 feet in the air, so then I started celebrating too.”
He also says it was the closest four-game sweep he’s been a part of, and it was crucial to close them out in four because Billy Hatcher and Eric Davis were hurt and Jose Rijo wouldn’t be available again until Game 7.
Garrett said the decision to stick with baseball after starting his career splitting time between the Reds and St. John’s basketball made itself after a really good year in Dayton.
He was getting older in basketball and started feeling more into baseball.
Day said his favorite moment of his broadcasting career came last year doing radio game with Marty Brennaman for the first time in spring training.
He grew up with a transistor radio listening to Reds on radio and had a wow moment.
His favorite in-game moment: Jay Bruce’s walkoff homer in 2010 that clinched the division.
Brantley said his most memorable mont was calling Homer Bailiey’s first no-hitter in Pittsburgh.
He had a different perspective from the booth than from being on the field or in the dugout. He could appreciate what was happening better that way.
Lastly, Williams was asked about rumors the Reds were talking to reps for Ichiro Suzuki.
They are not, but, “He is a heck of a player. I hope he finds a spot.”