MLB.com Columnist

Barry M. Bloom

Price's dream job yet to yield ideal results

Losses taking toll on second-year Reds manager

Price's dream job yet to yield ideal results

SAN DIEGO -- One has to feel for Reds manager Bryan Price. A man waits his entire career to earn the job of his dreams and the two years he's been in it have been the most trying of his life.

Losing can do that.

"It doesn't matter. You can sit there and say that we're going to blow this thing up," Price said, the Reds having defeated the Padres, 7-3, at Petco Park on Wednesday. "But at the end of the day, if you don't have a win to validate what you're doing, it stinks to go home with a loss every single time. It does. And it's miserable."

It's not as if you can just dust yourself off that easily and come back the next day, either.

"That would be the company line," Price said. "The company line is that we just stay optimistic and go forward. It has a wear-and-tear effect on everybody. I've never seen anybody handle losing real well. Some outwardly express it more optimistically than others, but when you go home every day with a loss, it stinks, 100 percent."

The losing has had a deleterious affect on Price, a usually calm and dignified man, who had one particularly epic blowup this season in front of the Cincinnati beat reporters.

The Reds, at 50-62, are heading toward their second consecutive sub-.500 season after going into the playoffs three out of the previous four seasons when managed by Dusty Baker. Price was the pitching coach under Baker after having similar tenures in Seattle and Arizona.

Price replaced Baker, who was dismissed in 2013 after losing the National League Wild Card Game to the Pirates despite a 90-72 regular-season record. Baker made a surprise visit to Petco Park on Tuesday night to visit with the team for the first time since he was let go.

Like his stints managing the Giants and Cubs, Baker was beloved in Cincinnati's clubhouse, and hours before the game, many of his former players swarmed him in the stands to the right of the visiting dugout. Price also gave Baker a big hug and engaged in a long chat with Baker's wife, Melissa.

Baker, who suffered a mild stroke at the end of the 2012 season and spent 2013 on the job recovering from it, looked fit and healthy. He's also a 13-year prostate cancer survivor.

"I really needed this break," said Baker, who has spent two full seasons completely out of the baseball business. "But now I'm ready to manage again. I've been ready."

By all rights, Baker, 66, should be a top candidate for any opening, particularly here in San Diego, where Pat Murphy is considered only a stop gap for the dismissed Bud Black. Baker has 20 years of experience and a .526 winning percentage. He had 509 wins and a .524 winning percentage in his six seasons managing the Reds.

"Dusty wants to manage, and again he's earned the right to do it," Price said. "He's a good man."

There's no way around the fact that Cincinnati is 22 games under .500 playing for Price, 76-86 last year when it finished in fourth place in the NL Central, 14 games behind division-winning St. Louis.

The rotation isn't remotely the same as it was under Baker when he was able to send out Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Homer Bailey, Bronson Arroyo and Mike Leake. With the recent trade of Leake to the Giants and Bailey only three months out from Tommy John surgery, the Reds are starting five rookies, who have opened the last 13 games in row.

Seven rookies have made 60 starts for Cincinnati this season and the staff owns a 4.04 ERA, 21st in the Majors.

Still, unless you're Mets second baseman Wilmer Flores, there's no crying in baseball and no excuses, either.

"I think we all have our opinions of what this club should be doing," Price said. "Because of the challenges we've had a long the way, it's been a struggle for all us who've been here the last couple of years as far as the expectation of winning more games. We've played a lot of close games over the last couple of years.

"And regardless of the roster, even when we've been somewhat depleted, there hasn't been diminished expectations of not only being competitive, but of coming home with some wins. In my opinion, we're just not winning as many games as anyone would like."

These are the kind of answers anyone would expect from a standup guy. And Price is a standup guy. When his buddy Bob Melvin was shown the door as manager by the D-backs in May 2009, Price chose loyalty and left with him rather than continue to work as pitching coach under the then-untested A.J. Hinch.

"That was an easy decision," Price said.

Like Baker, Melvin was beloved by the veteran players in the D-backs' clubhouse and because of that, "A.J. never had a chance," Price correctly assessed.

MLB Now on managers, reporters

That's why when Price went off at reporters, it seemed so out of character. Anyone who knows him figured the five-minute, 34-second, expletive-filled tirade in his daily session with reporters April 20 had to have been caused by a mixture of tension and displaced anger.

The Reds had opened 5-7 and were on a four-game losing streak. Price was set off about reports that injured catcher Devin Mesoraco was not with the team. And when it was also reported that Mesoraco and Tucker Barnhart were seen on a plane to join Cincinnati in St. Louis before Price could tell Kyle Skipworth he was being sent back to the Minors, the manager had a cow.

"It surprised a lot of people," Price said. "For me, it was a culmination of a lot of things. What I would have done if I was any smarter is, I would have said, 'Turn off your recorders and this is off the record.' If I had any intelligence or any intellect whatsoever, that's what I would have said."

Instead, it turned out to be a learning experience.

"Yeah, I learned a valuable lesson," Price said. "Call it a magical moment."

Just another in two seasons chock full of them.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.