Price hopes for ‘better’ Reds in second half

The Reds returned from the All-Star break refreshed and ready, and while they know the playoffs are probably out of reach, manager Bryan Price is looking for improvement over the last 73 games.

“It really comes down to the consistency of play,” Price said. “We played 38 games that were decided by one or two runs, so we were in a lot of games. We just want to get better in all facets. We have areas with room to grow statistically. We want to make sure the young guys show growth through the process. One hundred and sixty-two games is a beast. Team defense, overall pitching, walks and home runs — we want to see those numbers go down.”

The Reds knew pitching was going to be subpar out of spring training. They are last in the National League with a 5.46 ERA. Since the return of John Lamb and Anthony DeSclafani in early June and the ripple effect of relegating Michael Lorenzen and Raisel Iglesias to the bullpen, the pitching numbers have improved. In 37 games since May 31, when the team ERA was a season-high 5.83, the Reds have a 4.97 team ERA — not good but heading in a downward direction.

On May 31 the Reds were hitting .232 as a team. Since June 1 they have hit .244 clip with 40 home runs.

All-Star experience: Adam Duvall has had a year of firsts. This is his first year as a left-fielder in professional baseball, first All-Star Game and first Home Run Derby.

Duvall came back to Great American Ball Park with a golden bat signed by all of the derby participants. He has a jersey signed by all the All-Star.

The soft-spoken 27-year old from Louisville, Ky., is tied for second in the National League with 23 home runs. Duvall is sixth in the league with 61 RBIs, two behind team leader Jay Bruce.

“It was a great experience,” Duvall said of the All-Star Game. “At no time was I nervous.”

Duvall didn’t notch his first All-Star hit but had a big at-bat in the game. He fouled off several two strike pitches before drawing a walk to load the bases, becoming the potential winning run in the seventh inning.

“It was a big at-bat,” Duvall said when told the broadcasters complimented him for fouling off some tough pitches. “Actually, I thought I missed a couple of those pitches.I think I could have hit one or two of them in the gap.”

Bailey homecoming: The season-long wait for pitcher Home Bailey's first start since April 23, 2015 is about to end.

Bailey, recovering from Tommy John surgery, has two more rehab starts scheduled.

“We’re going game-to-game with him,” Price said. “Right now, he’s scheduled to pitch today and the 20th. We’ve gotten this far by being conservative and seeing how his arm feels and how the ball feels coming out of his hand.”

His first start could be July 25 at San Francisco if no setbacks.

Peraza plan: Top prospect Jose Peraza is getting an extended look as a second baseman, shortstop and outfielder but the Reds are running out of at-bats and don't want him used as a utility player.

“I think getting 3-4 starts per week would be pretty important for his development,” Price said.

Price would prefer finding one position and letting Peraza play it every day.

“That’s going to be the big challenge,” Price said. “My intention is not to rotate him (with starts at different spots). I don’t want him feeling like this is his role the rest of the season. He can be a quality utility guy, but we’re not grooming him as a utility player.”

Meanwhile, Brandon Phillips was in the starting lineup at second base Friday despite a sore wrist.

“I’ve been told that we’re treating it as a contusion,” Price said. “He gets iced and we’re getting the inflammation out. He doesn’t need to be casted. We’re not concerned about it.”