8/1/2014 7:27 P.M. ET
Bruce returns from bereavement list
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
MIAMI -- The Reds activated right fielder Jay Bruce from the bereavement list on Friday and optioned reliever Curtis Partch to Triple-A Louisville. Bruce missed the last three games to return to Texas after his grandfather, World War II veteran Carter Stanford, passed away at the age of 94.
"My mom told me Monday morning it happened. You didn't know it was coming, but it wasn't like, 'Oh my gosh, I can't believed it happened,'" Bruce said. "I felt it was important to be there for my family, and for my mom, and pay my final respects."
Bruce attended the burial on Wednesday, but had to wait to return to the team because being on the bereavement list requires missing a minimum of three days and a maximum of seven.
"I hated to miss three games," Bruce said. "It was tough, but it was family. I'm really, really glad to be back. They were 2-1 when I was out; they did well. I was the biggest fan while I was gone."
Reds catchers learn early how to adhere to new rule
MIAMI -- Major League Baseball's new home-plate collision rule and a crew-chief review that helped give the Reds a 3-1 win over the Marlins on Thursday night remained a hot topic on Friday.
But while Reds manager Bryan Price and the team's catchers aren't fans of the new rule that prevent blocking a runner's path to the plate, they've been working since Spring Training on techniques that both adhere to it and make the tags. Catching coordinator Mike Stefanski has taken the teaching lead with both Devin Mesoraco and Brayan Pena.
"We're going to give them some room for them to slide or whatever they have to do," Pena said on Friday. "It's been working pretty good so far for us."
In the eighth inning, Marlins catcher Jeff Mathis was ruled in violation of Rule 7.13 for not giving Zack Cozart a lane to the plate as he tried to score on a sacrifice fly. After a review, the original out call by umpire Mike Winters was overturned, and Cozart scored the tying run before Cincinnati took a 3-1 victory.
Pena was involved in another play at the plate during the bottom of the first inning when Casey McGehee tried to score on a Garrett Jones single to center field. Billy Hamilton's throw to the plate was perfect and Pena legally stepped in and tagged McGehee out to end the inning.
The important element for the successful play was that Pena set himself in fair territory in front of the plate and between the chalk of the batters boxes. That's exactly how Stefanski teaches the Reds' catchers to be positioned.
"You've got to give the line of chalk," Stefanski said. "You put your outside foot right on the chalk, that gives them the lane. The problem is once the bad throw happens, you have to know how to move without the ball once the bad throw happens.
"We teach our guys that anything from right field, we're going to go with one hand, because 90 percent of those plays the guy is going to slide outside, so you need that long reach. Left field, center field, you can see the runner and go into the runner with two hands in a more fundamental tag."
On the later play Thursday, Mathis was set up with one foot in foul territory and one foot in fair territory to get Cozart.
"I tried to set my feet the right way, especially my left foot," Pena said. "That way I give the umpire a better look of my position. And I anticipate wherever that throw comes from. At the same time, I make sure the runner sees a clear shot to slide or do whatever he does. It's very important for me to set myself in the right position."
During Spring Training, MLB provided teams with video examples of the right way and wrong way to position catchers for plays at the plate. Stefanski took that video and began implementation immediately. Mesoraco and Pena work on it frequently during the regular season.
"As long as you stay in fair territory and the ball comes in your area, then you can do whatever you want," Stefanski said. "You can block it. As you catch it, you can fold anybody up once you have the ball. The old-school rules apply once you have the ball. You want to block the plate in that situation."
Phillips' repaired thumb OK after taking grounders
MIAMI -- Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips, who is on the disabled list after having surgery July 11 to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb, took ground balls Thursday for the first time since having the operation, and he got through it with no issues.
"He's got a really great brace that protects his thumb from being bent to the wrong position when fielding," Reds manager Bryan Price said on Friday. "The great thing about it is he's able to continue working on his footwork and stay in baseball shape and throw, which is very important. He's still a ways away from being able to swing the bat."
Phillips remains on track to return sometime in late August.
"He's champing at the bit to go faster," Price said. "I don't know if this is an injury you can really rush to completion."
Players on the DL for extended periods, like Phillips, often don't travel with the club on road trips. Price felt he wanted Phillips to be on this trip, however.
"I think it's very difficult for our guys on the DL to not be with the team for extended periods," Price said. "We had the All-Star break. He had the surgery just before the All-Star break and then we had New York and Milwaukee [trips] when he wasn't with us. He really wants to be with our group of guys."