Reds looking forward to playing for Price
Familiarity with former pitching coach has players confident in smooth transition
CINCINNATI -- From the moment that Dusty Baker was dismissed as Reds manager early this month, the list of suggested names for the job ranged from highly qualified to ludicrous.
Big names like Tony La Russa, Barry Larkin and Joe Morgan were often brought up by fans. Former Reds and Yankees star Paul O'Neill publicly suggested himself. A large pool of deserving coaches around the league has waited for a shot to manage. And one of them -- pitching coach Bryan Price -- was inside the Reds clubhouse for the last four seasons.
It was Price, the only candidate that was interviewed, who got the job and a three-year contract on Tuesday. While it brings change to the dugout, it also brings continuity for a team that has reached the postseason three out of the last four years.
"I'm really excited about it," Reds right fielder Jay Bruce said. "I believe that he's going to be great. He's progressive, intelligent and already has a great understanding of what makes our team go. I think that the familiarity with the players and organization will play an integral part in expediting the transition into managing for him and us, both."
While Price might be a lesser-known quantity to casual fans, the 51-year old has been a big league pitching coach for 14 seasons. He has worked under Baker, Lou Piniella and Bob Melvin in Cincinnati, Seattle and Arizona.
Those fans itching for more change because the new manager worked for the old one might not recall that Price wasn't a Baker hire. When Baker's right-hand man, Dick Pole, was let go in October 2009, it was done by general manager Walt Jocketty, who then hired Price to work with the pitching staff.
The Reds pitching staff ranked third and fourth in team ERA over the past two seasons, respectively. In that span, the team's 187 wins and 3.36 ERA ranked third in the Major Leagues.
"He holds us accountable for everything," Reds reliever Logan Ondrusek said. "It will be a good deal for the whole team if he takes that same approach -- if everybody is accountable for themselves, knows what their job is and goes out and does it."
In Cincinnati, Price has worked well with the pitchers such as Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake and Sam LeCure but has also developed strong relationships with pitchers and hitters alike.
"I think he's a smart guy, a talented guy and I think we all know he's really good at what he does from a pitching-coach standpoint," left fielder Ryan Ludwick said. "He's viewed as one of the top pitching coaches in the game. You heard a lot of rumblings of him getting a managing job elsewhere. I'm glad he stayed with us. I know a lot of guys in that clubhouse respect him. He's a very approachable guy. He seems like a baseball man.
"A lot of guys are familiar with him. He's not from the outside coming in, so you have a comfort level of knowing who's the boss right from the get-go."
Known inside the team for his professional behavior, organization and punctuality, Bruce felt Price was the right guy for a "lead-by-example" type of team.
"He'll expect as much out of himself as he does out of us, and that's been apparent over the last four years with him as the pitching coach," Bruce said. "In my opinion, he does a great job of managing personalities and knowing the route to take with each individual in order to get the most out of them, and I believe that trait will translate and apply well to managing."
One common question might be how a pitching coach can work with a hitter, especially one who is struggling. One hitter not concerned was Ludwick, who played for Bud Black in San Diego. Before taking his first manager's job, Black was the Angels' pitching coach.
"You don't even think about that really. His job isn't to focus on the hitters. His job is to manage the club," Ludwick said of Price. "Bud was there for the hitters in a man-to-man standpoint or manager-to-player standpoint, but wasn't giving hitting tips. The hitting coach was dealing with the hitting. You could say the same thing -- how does Dusty Baker relate to pitchers when he was a former hitter?"
Not many pitching coaches have transitioned to managing in recent years, and only two -- John Farrell of the Red Sox and Black -- were skippers in 2013. Farrell, who previously managed the Blue Jays, led Boston to the American League pennant this season after he inherited a last-place team.
Price is inheriting a team that won 90 games this season, and 97 in 2012. This club is simultaneously getting a familiar and different voice from the predecessor.
"He knows what everybody can do," Ondrusek said. "He's seen firsthand what the organization is about. He knows the owners. He knows upper management and the coaching staff. He knows all the players already. It won't be a whole, 'Get-familiar-with-everybody' thing. That familiarity is there and he knows what everybody expects, what he expects from us and what we expect from ourselves. I think that will be good, [because] he's already been around and knows everything."