By KERMIT ROWE COMMENTARY
Kenton Ridge graduate Rick White has a message for the team closest to his heart, his and your hometown Cincinnati Reds.
“I think they gave up on me too soon,” said the 37-year-old Springfield native, now a Philadelphia Phillies reliever, via his cell phone on Friday. “I told them I’m sorry I didn’t pitch the way they wanted me to, but they didn’t pitch me the way I needed to be pitched, either.
“I told them when they told me I was being designated for assignment, ‘I wasn’t your guys’ problem.’ ”
There’s evidence to back that up. When White left on June 18, the Reds bullpen got worse, to the point where they had to trade two everyday starters in their prime Thursday in an effort to fix the problem. Granted, no one can say White wasn’t part of the problem the first month of the season, when his ERA was in the stratosphere, but near the end of his stint with the Reds, he was showing some consistent success. And he was enjoying himself.
Was it the emotion of finally realizing his dream of playing for his boyhood idols that led to the slow start?
At this point, a lot of pros clam up and answer a probing question like this with a cliche. But not White. In his career, in all my dealings with him, he has been honest and open.
“It probably was (a distraction) at the beginning,” said White. “Especially in the first month. We were just finishing building a new house, trying to get everything taken care of on the farm (a getaway he owns in Kentucky), I was driving back and forth from Springfield every day, the people back home, the ticket requests ... It was just too much.
“I talked to (Ken) Griffey about it and he said he went through the same thing the first two years he was in Cincinnati and he finally had to say no.”
So White cut back, stopping his daily commute — and it seemed to be working.
“I had just gotten all that stuff under control and had gotten some things rolling for a couple of games,” he said. “They just gave up on me too soon. One of my goals for the rest of the season is to prove that to them.”
Things have gone better in Philadelphia since being signed June 23.
“I’ve been throwing the ball pretty good. It’s just like I’ve been telling them all along: If I can get some consistency on the field, I’m still a pretty good pitcher.”
The numbers have been bearing that out as of late. Coming out of the All-Star break, White had posted a 3.55 ERA in his last 10 outings. He didn’t give up a run in eight of those 10 outings. His ERA for 2006, which had been a disaster in Cincinnati, is headed back down and currently is 5.91.
Now he is tantalizingly close to a career milestone few pro players ever see — 10 years of major league service.
“It should come sometime near the end of the month, or the beginning of August,” he said. “That’s a pretty good milestone for anyone in the sport.”
Especially for a boy from Springfield, Ohio.