By Hal McCoy
NEW YORK — To be an effective closer, a closer has to have something to close other than the bathroom door.
That's been the unfortunate case for Reds relief pitcher Todd Coffey, anointed the closer two weeks ago by manager Jerry Narron.
He has had three save opportunities, converting two in St. Louis and blowing his only other opportunity.
So Narron is making an adjustment. Coffey may appear in the seventh inning or the eighth inning, as he was doing in April and pitching so well. And it could mean some games will be finished by Kent Mercker or Chris Hammond or David Weathers.
"To get Coffey more work, I'm going to mix and match with those four guys," said Narron. "Coffey pitched so well for us early in the season coming into games in the seventh and eighth innings, and those innings are just as important as far as putting up zeros as is the ninth. Games are won and lost in the seventh or eighth, too."
That doesn't mash Coffey's ego.
"Yeah, Jerry told me I might be coming into games earlier," said Coffey. "I don't mind at all. I want to win so bad, that's all I really care about. If I have to go back to pitching in the seventh or eighth, that's fine."
Before Wednesday's game, pitcher-turned-ESPN broadcaster Orel Hershiser stopped in Narron's office and asked about the bullpen: "Do you go by role or hot hand? Or maybe warm hand or maybe a pulse?"
Narron roared with laughter, undoubtedly wishing some of those guys in the bullpen these days had a pulse, but said, "Role. Nobody has ever asked me about a hot hand."
Dent as icon
Bench coach Bucky Dent had a busy Wednesday, first a book-signing session with author Phil Pepe at Barnes & Noble. Dent wrote the foreword to Catfish, Yaz and Hammerin' Hank.
Then he toured the American Stock Exchange floor, and pandemonium broke out — even more pandemonium than usual. Yes, they remember Dent's game-winning home run for the New York Yankees in Fenway Park in 1978, a one-game playoff against the Boston Red Sox for the American League East title.
"It was crazy, it was nuts, it was wild, all the clapping and shouting of my name," said Dent. As he moved across the exchange floor, loud applause followed him. He signed more than 200 autographs and posed for photographs after nearly every step.
Valentin vs. Valentin
There was a family meeting at home plate in Tuesday's game when New York's Jose Valentin tried for an inside-the-park home run. Reds catcher Javier Valentin, Jose's brother, was waiting to make the tag.
"I didn't even see who picked up the ball and made the throw," said Javier. "I was told it was Ken Griffey Jr. and I said, 'Oh, my gosh, that was a perfect throw.' We had my brother out by 10 feet. I didn't think he would try to run me over. He was too tired."
The Valentins' mother (Yolanda) and father (Jose Sr.) flew in from Puerto Rico to see this series, "Then my mom is coming to Cincinnati to live with me the rest of the summer," said Javier.
Two Reds 'Futures'
The Reds will have two representatives in the Futures Game played by minor-leaguers in Pittsburgh before the All-Star break.
Homer Bailey and Joey Votto, both fan favorites when they played at Class A Dayton and both playing at Class AA Chattanooga, will oppose each other — Bailey pitching for the U.S. team and Votto, a Canadian, playing for the World team. Votto had a nine-game hitting streak stopped Tuesday.
And for those howling for the appearance of Chattanooga closer David Shafer (22 saves in 26 appearances and a 1.11 earned run average), he went on the disabled list Wednesday with shoulder inflammation.
Five and survive
For those calling for Ryan Freel to play every day at one position, Narron assures that it isn't going to happen.
"Freel is best when used five times a week and all over the field," said Narron. "That's when he is at his best, even though I'm sure he'd say he wants to play 10 times a week. His best is in any of the outfield spots, but I'm not afraid to play him at third base or second base."
When Freel steals another base, it will be the 100th of his career, but he says he won't hold the base over his head the way Rickey Henderson once did, "Because I'm still about 900 behind him."