CINCINNATI -- First-time Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price has said the major focus of his tenure as leader of the club will be a culture of accountability .
What that specifically means remains to be seen, but when Price trots into Great American Ball Park's home team dugout Monday on Opening Day, that culture is in full motion.
"We’re all employees, we all have accountability to be good employees, and how do we hold ourselves accountable to those responsibilities?” Price said during an interview with WCPO a few days after he was hired. Price's words are a broad look at some issues that he will have to address as the season goes on.
Here are some accountable themes to watch for as the year goes on to see how Mr. Price deals with them:
1. Is Hamilton the best lead-off option? If he fails to obtain a decent batting average and on-base percentage, will Price make a change?
2. Who will be the closer while Aroldis Chapman mends? J.J. Hoover is the stopgap, but what if he can't cut it? The other options are slim in the interim while Sean Marshall and Jonathan Broxton also recover from injuries, but Price will have to consider the whole bullpen. Does Sam Lecure get a shot?
3. When does he pull the starting pitchers? Dusty Baker traditionally gave his starters a long leash, even after they got in trouble. With a banged-up bullpen, does Price adopt a similar view, or will he be getting the hook out earlier?
4. If the team isn't producing enough runs, who needs to improve? Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce have sometimes received a free pass because of their superstar status, but Price will need to look at every spot in the lineup and the way each hitter is approaching the plate to figure out where the team can maximize output.
5. What needs to happen to the bottom of the lineup to get them to where they need to be? Zach Cozart is mostly safe because of his spectacular fielding abilities, but Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco should be on the lookout. Brayan Pena and Tucker Barnhart are both on the roster looking for playing time behind the plate, and newly signed veteran Ramon Santiago could fill in at third more often than not if Frazier's consistency doesn't improve. Santiago is a better fielder and he gets on base just as much, despite not having the power Frazier does.
6. When can the team maximize a hot Chris Heisey and a promising Skip Schumaker (despite his injury)? Pinch hitting has long been Heisey's forte, but his spring showed he's valuable as a full-game player. Ludwick should be back to 100 percent and get a majority of the playing time in left field, and Hamilton will at least be a few-month experiment n center, but the team can't overlook two of the hottest bats in Arizona this spring.
7. Can Price keep a demoralized team motivated? Injuries have already taken a shot at this team's confidence, despite the renewed energy the regular season brings. When the collective 25 start to sulk, what can Price do to give them a swift kick, and get them back to hustling on every pitch? Same with the month of September. In recent years, the Reds have limped into the playoffs or waned off the gas toward the end of the regular season. Price needs to be mindful of this, and keep the clubhouse chipper for the challenges at hand. If all goes well, they should still have a shot at a postseason berth in that final month, and they need to be mentally prepared for it.
“There’s a right way and wrong way to play the game, and I think it’s very black and white," Price said. "There’s a type of effort and energy that you put into preparation in playing the game of baseball."
"We have to be unified in that one goal: Play the best baseball we're capable of with energy."
Let's play ball!... with some accountability.
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