Reds' fielding in need of fixing
Team has most unearned runs in NL
BY JOHN FAY | ENQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Edwin Encarnacion snatched up the ball after Freddie Bynum's bunt, whirled and threw a seed to Felipe Lopez to get a forceout of Ronny Cedeno at second base.
Lopez touched the bag and fired the ball to Ryan Freel, who was covering first.
Freel made a nice scoop on the throw.
Three chances for the play to go wrong, and it didn't.
"Great play," Reds manager Jerry Narron said.
It was a big part of the Reds thwarting the Chicago Cubs' attempt at an eighth-inning rally in Wednesday night's 3-2 victory.
When you listen to Narron, you get the idea that making plays like that one is a cure for what ails the Reds.
"If we just make the routine plays and not give away outs, we've got a chance to win a lot of ballgames," Narron said for about the 112th time after Wednesday's game.
Eric Milton's pitching (72/3 innings, two runs), Ken Griffey Jr.'s hitting (home run, two RBI) and Todd Coffey's save (four up, four down) were the headline items from that victory.
But the fact that the Reds didn't make an error should be noted. It ended a streak of six games with an error, and - not coincidentally - the Reds were 1-5 in those games.
"We played clean baseball," Narron said. "We didn't make mistakes defensively."
The Reds simply must keep doing that to have a chance on the rest of their road trip. They start a three-game series in Houston tonight, then play three in St. Louis.
Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky has made a plethora of moves to reshape the team's roster lately.
But at some point, it becomes incumbent upon the players to turn it around.
"You can't switch out 25 guys," Krivsky said. "Guys have to step up. That doesn't mean we'll stop trying to make the team better."
"But the vast majority of the production is going to come from the players already here," Krivsky added.
Defense is the thing that is most obviously fixable.
"It doesn't take a genius to see that," Krivsky said. "We've allowed the most unearned runs (in the National League). We've had way too many defensive breakdowns."
Narron is a self-described pitching-and-defense guy. After watching the Reds make two physical errors and one mental one in a 7-3 loss Tuesday, he went off in a very Narron-like way.
"It's embarrassing," he said.
That's about as strong as Narron's remarks get publicly, but he has said such fundamental flaws will be addressed.
And he said he did that after Tuesday's debacle.
"We talked a lot the last couple of days about making the routine plays," he said.
Narron was asked if he addressed defense in a team meeting or individually with players.
"A little bit of both," he said.
For the Reds to recover from their May malaise - they went 12-16 in the month - other things must go right. The pitching has to be as good as it's been so far. And their bats have to come to life as they did in April; the Reds hit .267 in April and .248 in May.
If you believe in statistical trends, the hitting is going to get better over the long haul and pitching is going to drop off some.
But the fielding could go either way.
"I think all of us, as a ballclub, have been disappointed with the way we've played defensively," Narron said. "We really feel like we're a better defensive club than we've shown."
So far, the Reds have been the worst defensive club in baseball, at least statistically. They are last in fielding percentage (.975), tied for the most errors (49) and have allowed the second-most unearned runs (31).
Lopez (11 errors, tied for most among shortstops), Encarnacion (13 errors, most among third basemen) and Adam Dunn (five errors, tied for most among outfielders) have been the Reds' biggest culprits.
"I think sometimes we forget what a young, inexperienced infield we've got," Narron said.
Lopez is 26, second baseman Brandon Phillips is 24 and Encarnacion is 23. (Phillips has only three errors.) None of the three has been a full-time starter for more than a year.
"We expect them all to be Gold Glovers," Narron said. "So far, they haven't been as good as we would have liked."