Utilityman turned pitcher best candidate to be Reds’ emergency catcher

The Reds’ Brandon Dixon greets his teammates in the dugout after hitting a 2-run home run against the Cleveland Indians during spring training on February 23, 2018 in Goodyear, Arizona. (Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images)
The Reds’ Brandon Dixon greets his teammates in the dugout after hitting a 2-run home run against the Cleveland Indians during spring training on February 23, 2018 in Goodyear, Arizona. (Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images)

Interim Reds manager Jim Riggleman isn’t the only member of the Reds who believes Brandon Dixon is the best candidate to be the team’s emergency catcher.

“I think Dixon would be next in line,” relief pitcher Jared Hughes.

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Dixon, the rookie already listed on the game lineup sheets as an infielder-outfielder, made his first career pitching appearance in the ninth inning of Cincinnati’s 10-3 Ohio Cup interleague loss to Cleveland on Monday at Great American Ball Park. Riggleman identified Dixon on Tuesday as the player most likely to don the equipment if the Reds ever needed an emergency catcher.

“This is the first I’m hearing about it,” Dixon said before Wednesday’s series finale against the Indians. “I’ve never caught before – maybe in Little League for a couple of innings. I’m sure I could get it done. I’m up for whatever they have for me – whatever they need. If that’s what they want, I’m sure it would be a last-minute thing – grab the gear and catch some balls off the pitching machine.”

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Riggleman believes the ability is something utility players might want to consider cultivating.

“Any time you can catch, that’s good to add to your resume,” he said. “It’s good if you’ve got an extra guy who can catch.”

Players who want to do it probably should practice, at least enough to avoid injury, the manager said.

“You just want them to be able to get back there and not get hurt,” said Riggleman, who’s used players as emergency catchers in the minor leagues, but never as a major league manager, to his recollection. “These days, it’s not just the hands you have to worry about. It’s also concussions.”

Dixon said he got texts from friends about his mound debut.

“They were poking fun at me for not getting above 70 (miles per hour),” he said.

Dixon doesn’t believe he’s versatile enough to pull off the stunt performed back in 1965 by the A’s Bert Campaneris and again in 1968 by the Twins’ Cesar Tovar – who broke into professional baseball in Cincinnati’s farm system – of playing all nine positions in a single game.

“I don’t think I can do that,” he said. “I’m solid at a lot of positions, but I’m not a pitcher, and I’m not a catcher. I wouldn’t want to go out of my way to do that.

“It would be a cool thing to do, but hopefully, we’re playing games that matter, and we won’t have to think about things like that,” he added.

Friendly reminder: Speaking of games that matter, Riggleman took time after Tuesday's 8-1 loss – the third straight in which the Reds gave up at least eight runs while losing by exactly seven – to remind his players that they've beaten some good teams, too – and recently.

“I told them to remember who we are,” he said. “We ran into a Pittsburgh club right after the All-Star break and now this Cleveland team when they’re really hot. It’s like running into a buzzsaw. They’ve beaten us around, but we’ve beaten some good clubs, too.”

Before losing the first two of the three-game series with Cleveland, the Reds had won five and split the sixth in six straight series against teams that were in first place when the series started, including Arizona this past weekend.

“We can play with anybody in the league,” Riggleman said. “When you run into that (Cleveland) offense over there with (Corey) Kluber pitching – that’s World Series stuff.”

Versatility matters: Expect shortstop Jose Peraza, who has played in 118 and started 114 of Cincinnati's 121 games, to get a day off the next road trip.

Riggleman plans to move third baseman Eugenio Suarez, who came up through the Detroit system as a shortstop, to Peraza’s position with either Dixon or Dilson Herrera playing third base. Herrera made his first start in left field earlier on this home stand.

“Dilson played second base and third base in Triple-A,” Riggleman said. “He looked OK in the outfield. That’s still a work in progress.”

Herrera has played a total of four innings over two games at third base this season, his first career appearances at that position. His next start at the so-called “hot corner” will be his first.

Day off: The Reds were off Thursday before opening a three-game series against San Francisco on Friday. Right-hander Anthony DeSclafani (6-3), Cincinnati's most consistent recent starter with wins in his last two outings, is scheduled to start Friday's 7:10 p.m. game against right-hander Dereck Rodriguez (6-1).