Ask Hal: If Votto returns, let’s hope he can finish career strong

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

Q: With so many pitchers getting seriously injured on comeback liners is there a solution to the problem? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: That’s really a rare occurrence but it is dramatic when it happens, like when Cleveland Indians (They weren’t the Guardians then) pitcher Herb Score was hit in the eye by a line drive hit by the New York Yankees Gil McDougald. Score was never the same. Batting practice pitchers have a screen in front of them, but that’s not feasible for games. The best avoidance is to keep pitches way inside or way outside. If they throw one down the middle, be ready to duck.

Q: What’s the latest on Joey Votto and will he make it back before the All-Star break or will he retire? — WALT, Beavercreek and BO, Centerville.

A: That’s the No. 1 question I get asked. And I can’t answer because Votto won’t answer. He had a media conference last week and every time he was asked about a return, he said, “I’m taking batting practice.” My uneducated guess is that he’ll be back by the All-Star break. But then what do they do with Spencer Steer, who is playing above-board first base. Let’s hope when Votto does return, he finishes strong to put a punctuation mark on his career. It would be awful to see him come back and play poorly during his final few months.

Q: With so many good middle infield prospects on their way up, who gets moved or traded? — MIKE, Ft. Thomas, Ky.

A: With his history, it would not surprise me to see general manager Nick Krall trade Nick Senzel and even Jonathan India, whom the Reds may not be able to afford soon. The team has about seven shortstop prospects so most of them will have to show they can play other positions. Or the Reds could use those young chips to acquire some pitching or a power hitter. As of this writing, the Reds had one more home run than stolen bases (36-35) and they have the third fewest home runs in the majors.

Q: Will we see Ely De La Cruz this year? — RANDY, Rotonda, Fla.

A: Sure can. Make a stop in Louisville, where he is the greatest thing since English muffins. Will he make it to Cincinnati this year? Well, since the Reds called up Matt McLain, De La Cruz is playing shortstop every game. So where would he play in Cincinnati? Scouts tell me he still strikes out on bad pitches and his defense is not yet MLB caliber. There is no need to rush him, even though fans are salivating to see him in a Reds City Connect uniform.

Q: The talk of the town last week was over the City Connect uniforms, but didn’t uniforms once have to be uniform as in same color shoes, same color undersleeves and were those league rules? — TOM, Cincinnati.

A: Most teams were conformists back in the day, but I don’t remember specific rules about it. I do remember that former Reds president Bob Howsam had strict rules. The stirrup socks had to show with the pants the same length as everybody’s on the team. All shoes had to be black with no logos showing. All the white logos were covered with black shoe polish. Mr. Howsam would have lapsed into apoplexy over not only the Reds black uniforms, but those monstrosities worn by San Diego and Miami. He would wonder why teams look like refugee from beer leagues.

Q: Is David Bell the right manager to make the Reds a winner for the next few years when they bring up the young talent? — JOE, Mason.

A: Who knows? The one year he had talent, the shortened pandemic season, they made the playoffs. Then they traded or let go most of the established talent to start over. He is a by-the-book manager, especially the left vs. right and right vs. left with both the pitchers and the hitters. Personally, I don’t subscribe to that, but he never asked me. He also devours the analytics he is fed. One thing in his favor, he doesn’t cost the Reds that much.

Q: Do we hate the ghost runner until we love it, like Monday’s walk-off Reds win over the Cardinals? — GREG, Albuquerque, N.M.

A: The Reds could win seven walk-offs in a row, and I’d still hate the ghost runner. The Reds won that game without a hit. With the runner starting on second base, there was a wild pitch and sacrifice fly. Game over. It isn’t real baseball, it’s gimmick ball. When extra innings begin, it’s a different game. Play it out like the first nine innings. Who cares if it goes 18 innings? Each inning is a drama and the team that wins won it by playing real baseball.

Q: Rank these rules changes from favorite to least: Shift ban, pitch clock, base size, three-batter requirement for relief pitchers, ghost runner for extra innings. — JAMES, Huber Heights.

A: Amazingly, you put them in my order. Banning the shift is almost as good as banning the bomb, the pitch clock has sped up most games and increased action, the size of bases encourages stolen bases, which I love because I could never steal one, the three-batter requirement for relief pitchers is a bad one because it reduces strategy and as everybody should know by now, I feel the ghost runner is the worst rule ever put into baseball and like the shift it should be banned forthwith.

Q: If a batter is issued an intentional walk, is the pitcher credited with four pitches thrown? — BILL, Reynoldsburg.

A: You are six years behind the times, sir. Before 2017, the pitcher actually threw four wide pitches, and they were included on his pitch count because the ball was in play. In 2017 they changed the rule. No pitches are thrown on an intentional walk. The manager merely signals the umpire for an intentional walk and the hitter drops his bat and trots to first base. But it eliminates the possibility of a wild pitch. I once saw a game with a runner on third and the pitcher, issuing an intentional walk, threw a wild pitch and the runner on third scampered home. That had to rate at the top of that pitcher’s embarrassment scale.

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