Friday was the first day that there were full squad workouts at both Great American Ballpark and at Prasco Park – the teams second site for 22 of the 57 players. The Reds had a live video feed of many of the activities during the afternoon, and you can watch nearly 4 hours worth right here. Throughout the day the media got a chance to speak with manager David Bell, first baseman Joey Votto, and outfielder Nick Senzel.
Reds Manager David Bell on how things will work
“Our (minor league) coordinators are pretty much running the complex over at Prasco,” said Bell. “Chris Tremie (minor league field coordinator) is coordinating the scheduling and working really close with JR (House) and I to make sure things are consistent. The on field instruction and coaching will be done by the minor league coordinators. It’s a great group. Our coaching staff will spend time at Prasco. And some of those coaches may come over here at times as well.”
With two different sites for practice/preparation, the input from the minor league staff over at Prasco Park could be very important as players at Great American Ballpark who seem to be more likely to win one of the 30 opening day jobs could need to be filled in for due to injury or sickness. Without having eyes on everyone there nearly as often as they otherwise would during a regular spring training with everyone at the same location, the reports from the crew at Prasco will play a big role if needed.
“It is important to lay our eyes on them, but at the same time we want guys to ease into it and not try to show too much. These guys are also professionals – we’ve had enough communication to have a pretty good idea of where they are,” Bell said when asked about being able to know where guys are at right now. “We need to ease into it but also it’s important for a lot of them to acclimate and we can visually see where they are. We have time to make adjustments and still have everyone ready on time for opening day.”
Pitchers in particular are working on a short ramp up schedule. While they were all likely trying to keep their arm in the right situation for them, along with following a plan from the Reds coaching staff, there’s still a difference between gearing up for a season and throwing side sessions to keep your arm loose.
“Everyone’s going to be on a bit of a different schedule,” said Bell. “We’re going to begin our communication today with our pitchers to get them an idea of what their ramp up will look like between now and opening day. No live BP’s – there’s a handful of guys with sides today, but not all of them. It’ll be different for all of them each day throughout camp.”
Practice isn’t going to be quite the same. From how different parts need to be staggered, to having workout equipment on the concourse, to an entirely different location for a bunch of players.
“It does not feel normal. I wish it did. In a lot of ways we feel prepared for sure,” said Bell. “But you’re kind of going into the great unknown. There’s some excitement in that, there’s some anxiety in there. We’re very confident with where we are. I don’t know that that feeling will go away all year, so we have to get comfortable with the uncomfortable.”
Joey Votto weighs in on being back
“Inside the clubhouse it’s significantly different than what we’re used to. But once you get out on the field we have the freedom to more or less just do our job,” said Votto. “There’s a clear difference inside. The more time you can spend outside the more familiar things will feel. Personally I’m going to try and set it up so I can spend as much time outside.”
“It’s interesting because we’re so used to things being a certain way. There’s a lot of autopilot in baseball because you’re trying to conserve as much energy because you’re trying to save it for competition. A lot of the things in the past we wouldn’t have paid attention to, we have to concentrate on. And it’s for our teammates, the coaching staff, the front office, and it’s most importantly for the community in general. Those are adjustments that we’re all policing amongst ourselves, but we’re also being held accountable by the organization. It’s weird. It’s not our favorite thing – we’d like things to be normal, but with that being said, we also want to play. If that takes this sort of adjustment, we’re willing to do it.”
With the short window until the season begins, Votto was asked about how he felt about the time frame.
“I tried to prepare for this. I think it’s important to think of this as spring training, but almost treat it like we’re half way through. It’s important to have some urgency at this point, without panicking too much. It’s going to come quick, and because it’s almost entirely intrasquad games – it’s gonna come quicker than we realize. We don’t want to get caught off guard collectively. I don’t think we will – it looks like guys are ready and motivated. It seems like a group of guys who can flip the switch and they have it and that’s a good thing. Hopefully I can keep up with those guys.”
“I’m excited. I really am excited. I miss the guys, I missed the staff, I missed competition. I feel refreshed as a professional. I haven’t felt this way in years,” said Votto. “I’m very excited, whether it was 60 games, half a season, or a full season. 60 games is totally fine with me. I think people at home are excited, we are going to be the first sport back. I know there are some individual sport back, but we’re the first team sport back. I can’t wait to be a part of it.”
At least for now, the plan is to have games without fans just about everywhere in baseball (though a few teams seem to having ideas about finding a way to get fans in there rather quickly). Votto was asked about what it would be like playing without fans, and he had a pretty long, but well thought out answer – which is par for the course for the Reds first baseman.
“I don’t know. That’s a good question – I’ve been asked that from people in the industry, but also from people outside that are just curious about that variable. I don’t know. All of us are guys with long minor league track records and in the minor leagues you play a lot of games at low levels with no fans, instructional league games with no fans, extended spring training games with no fans and you learn to perform with or without people in the stands. The real adjustment for most players was in their Double-A or Triple-A year and then eventually in their first major league year the adjustment to fans. I think it may be a little bit weird, but all of us have been desensitized to that.”
“The thing that stands out to me is I think I get a little concerned where there may be tense moments where we’re just instinctively going to stand up for each other. There will be moments like that where our competitive instinct – there’s just so many things that come natural to us. These are things that just come natural to us, I don’t know how those are going to be mitigated – I don’t know if they will. I’ve been watching a lot of European football, they’re making a lot of contact, they’re getting close to their competition, they’re high-fiving, they’re hugging. These are all a part of competitiveness. And I think that’s the desire from the people at home – they want us to go out and give the real version of competitiveness with everything that comes with it. We’ll see how that shakes out.”
Nick Senzel is back, healthy, and ready to go
“If I’m being honest, there’s probably no chance I was going to be ready for opening day. I was probably weeks away from that,” said Senzel. “It so happened that I got a couple extra months and was able to go back to the University of Tennessee to rehab multiple times a week. It was good for me and my shoulder, being home and spending time with friends and family. It honestly finally feels like a normal shoulder – it probably started to feel like a normal shoulder about a month ago. It was really a long, grueling process with the shoulder. It’s really tough, but I made it through, stayed positive and now I’m ready to go.”
Following up on that, he was asked about what was the part that was toughest with regards to the shoulder when he was coming back.
“Throwing. That was it. 100% now. Throwing was the most important, and the part that hurt the worst. All good now.”
Like everyone else around the game of baseball, the safety protocols put in place are a lot different than what anyone is used to. Even those of us outside of the baseball circle are learning new ways to go about being as safe as we can.
“It’s definitely a lot. It’s very necessary in this situation. You can’t only think for yourself, you have to think for your teammates and their families, and how important it is to follow these rules and regulations for this virus not to spread and to carry on this season and make sure at the end of the day everyone is healthy,” said Senzel. “When we have free time sometimes you don’t even think about what you’re doing sometimes. Guys are going to have to be disciplined, as a team we’re going to have to be disciplined. This is a collective effort around the league to make sure everyone is doing their part to keep everyone safe and healthy.
We’ll wrap this up with some enthusiasm from Senzel. He was asked about how good the team can be, and ultimately what the goal for the team is this year.
“The goal is always to win a world series. I feel like if we just play our game and each of us do our jobs, I feel we have a good chance to be there at the end of the year. We’re going to win a lot of games and we have a good group to do it with. 60 games or not, anything can happen. I know we’ll be ready to go.”
I’ve heard a lot of concern from many players, probably well justified, about safety protocols. Without dismissing those concerns, it’s very refreshing to hear insights about enthusiasm, preparation for playing, about excitement to compete as well. The positive tests are discouraging, but the actual numbers are low. IF this “summer camp” can run without (many) more cases, we will go through our own fans summer camp, from initial excitement, to skepticism, to anticipation, to excitement for Opening Day 2020 style. Welcome back Joey Votto, Nick Senzel and the Cincinnati Reds!
I’ve been in a residential facility for Combat Veterans with PTSD in San Diego. I got here right as COVID hit from Los Angeles. It’s hospital rules as it is attached to the VA hospital…so I’ve been locked in with short stints when I’m allowed to leave.
I’ve only been able to see my girlfriend and dogs a few times in 4 months, otherwise, locked in.
I think the players can suck it up for 2-3 months of baseball. Being outdoors, competing, not being bored out of their minds, and being there for us, the fans.
I’m not saying this in a negative manner, but in a way to say if 30+ veterans can handle being locked in everyday, and not seeing their families for 6 months, staying safe and playing ballgames should not be that difficult.