CINCINNATI — A day after his first major league callup at 28 years old, Reds third baseman Mike Costanzo was still feeling shocked, happy and any other positive adjective you could think of.
"All of the above," Costanzo told MLB.com on Sunday morning. "A lot of emotions are running around in my head. It's been quite a journey for me. I'm ecstatic about being here."
Costanzo was called up from Triple-A Louisville to replace Scott Rolen after he went on the disabled list.
A native of suburban Philadelphia, Costanzo was a second-round draft pick by the Phillies in 2005.
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In April 2010, the Orioles asked Costanzo to switch to pitching, and he was released after he refused. He spent two weeks playing independent ball in Camden, N.J., but he did not consider giving up on the game.
"I love baseball," Costanzo said. "Definitely being 28 and in Triple-A the last five years, going to indy ball and doing all of that stuff, it makes you wonder sometimes. Never did I want to stop playing."
The Reds signed him in May 2010 and he alternated between Double-A and Triple-A each of the past three seasons. In a combined 34 games this season with Louisville and Double-A Pensacola, Costanzo batted .303 with six homers and 24 RBI.
Costanzo will be a left-handed bat off the bench. He got an RBI on a sacrifice fly in his debut as a pinch-hitter on Sunday.
"I saw him in spring training a couple years ago and I said, 'I like you.' He can stroke it," Reds Manager Dusty Baker told MLB.com. "How come he hasn't played at a higher elevation for a longer period of time? You always want to see someone reach their goal no matter what age they are. "
It's taken Costanzo eight years to achieve that goal.
"A lot of guys never get the chance. For me to get it, it's been unbelievable," Costanzo said. "The best feeling was when I called my parents. It was awesome."
Baker calls out hitters
The Nationals have the top pitching staff ERA (2.60 entering Sunday) in the National League. Their pitchers have stung the Reds repeatedly this season, and Manager Dusty Baker has had enough.
"You've still got to hit them," Baker said. "I'm tired of tipping my hat to whoever is out there. How many days can you tip your hat? When I first got to the big leagues, I remember I asked Orlando Cepeda, 'Is it like this every day?' He said, 'Every day.' That's what he told me, and that was my big awakening.
"I was always taught that that dude over there has had three or four days to rest and just figure out how to get me out. I had less than 24 hours sometimes to go from one bad dude to another bad dude. That's a welcome to the big leagues. I'm not giving them too much credit."
Entering Sunday's game the Reds were ranked 13th in the NL with a .236 average and are tied for sixth in team strikeouts (258).
Baker said that the strikeouts weren't from being too aggressive, but not aggressive enough on quality pitches. Too often, Baker said, the pitcher has had strike one.
"You want to attack that fastball," Baker said. "That's what we have to start doing as a unit. Everybody is asking, 'How come this guy is swinging at the first pitch sometimes, or do you want him to take a pitch?' We're taking fastballs and they're getting ahead of us.
"I don't know where people get that from, (asking), 'Why do you swing at the first pitch?' Especially with runners in scoring position, they're going to get ahead of you. There are only one of two things they can do to you, they either run at you and get ahead, or run from you and hope you chase them. If you don't, then they have to run at you."