Bryan Price on opportunistic Reds: ‘We take what’s there to take’

Reds shortstop Zack Cozart fields a ball with his bare hand against the Giants on Sunday, May 7, 2017, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff
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Reds shortstop Zack Cozart fields a ball with his bare hand against the Giants on Sunday, May 7, 2017, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff

Bryan Price’s Great American Ball Park office was more crowded than usual on Monday during his daily pre-game media briefing.

Being in first place and playing the New York Yankees at the same time will cause that, especially when the Yankees also are in first place.

The Reds went into the two-game interleague series riding a season-high five-game winning streak. To some observers, that seemed like validation for the fourth-year Reds manager’s approach this season, from sticking with slumping youngsters to his deployment of the relief corps – with no designated closer and relievers being used for multiple innings, including in save situations – that is unusual in today’s game.

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“I feel like we’re playing like I thought we would play,” said Price, whose team was in first place this late in the season for the first time since the 2012 squad won the National League Central Division championship. “We played through the adversity of losing some starting pitching and didn’t use that as an excuse. Now we’re getting some production from our starting pitchers, and that’s helping bring it all together.

“We’ve been in first place and last place and now we’re back in first place,” he added with a smile. “I’d like to be talking about that in September.”

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One of the members of the New York media asked Price to describe his team in one word.

“Wow,” Price said. “You needed to send me a text overnight on that one. That’s a tough one. If I had to pick a word, I’d say opportunistic. We take what’s there to take.”

Fun times: Zack Cozart didn't find any extra measure of enjoyment in hitting a home run off of former teammate Johnny Cueto in Sunday's 4-0 win over San Francisco.

“It’s always fun to hit one,” the veteran shortstop.

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Cozart has been having a lot of fun lately. With the problems resulting from his devastating knee injury in June 2015 further behind him, he went into Monday’s game tied with teammate Billy Hamilton and Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon for the major league lead with four triples, and he was hitting .351 this season.

Price credited improved “strike-zone command” for Cozart’s early season surge.

“He’s seeing the ball better and identifying good pitches to hit,” Price said. “I’m sure there’s a physical element that goes with that, too. “

Finnegan throws: Even though left-hander Brandon Finnegan wasn't expected to be throwing until mid-May, he actually started tossing over the weekend as he tries to come back from a left shoulder strain. Finnegan has been on the disabled list since April 16.

“He’s a ways away from throwing off a mound,” Price said.

Meanwhile, right-hander Anthony DeSclafani returned to Arizona after spending a couple of days early last week in Cincinnati, being reexamined by team doctors and catching up with his teammates.

“He’ll be back here in two-plus weeks to reevaluated before we decide to start a throwing program,” Price said.

DeSclafani has been out all season with a sprained ligament in his right elbow.

Makeup date: The Cardinals announced that their game with the Reds that was rained out on April 29 at Busch Stadium has been rescheduled for June 29 at 4:15 p.m.

Homestand finale: Right-hander Tim Adleman (1-1), a Staten Island, N.Y. native and Connecticut resident, is Cincinnati's scheduled starter in Tuesday's 7:10 p.m. homestand finale against the Yankees. Adleman is coming off a 4-2 win over Pittsburgh last Thursday in which he allowed six hits and two runs with one walk and five strikeouts in six innings. Left-hander C.C. Sabathia (2-1) is scheduled to make his first start against Cincinnati since 2012.

Welcome back: Former Reds right fielder Paul O'Neill was with the Yankees traveling party as part of the as an analyst for the Yes Network. O'Neill is in his 16th season as a Yankees' broadcaster after a 17-year major league career, the first eight with the Reds. The Columbus, Ohio, native was a starter on Cincinnati's 1990 World Series-championship team.

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