John Clay

Despite recent success, Reds shouldn't jump the gun with Jim Riggleman

Cincinnati interim manager Jim Riggleman stood between first baseman Joey Votto and umpire Carlos Torres as they argued after Votto was ejected during the first inning of the Reds' 6-5 win at Atlanta on Wednesday.
Cincinnati interim manager Jim Riggleman stood between first baseman Joey Votto and umpire Carlos Torres as they argued after Votto was ejected during the first inning of the Reds' 6-5 win at Atlanta on Wednesday. Associated Press

All of a sudden, the Cincinnati Reds are red-hot.

They rallied from two runs down to beat host Atlanta 6-5 on Wednesday and take two of three from the National League East-leading Braves. They have won nine of their last 10 games, 12 of their last 15. After a horrendous 3-18 start, the Reds have gone 31-28. On the season, they’re 34-46.

This recent spate of success has ramped up the calls for the Cincinnati front office to remove the interim tag and make Jim Riggleman the so-called “permanent” manager.

My reply: What’s the hurry?

To be sure, Riggleman deserves a ton of credit. The 65-year-old skipper has executed a difficult momentum swing since taking over for Bryan Price, fired April 19 with the Reds a dreadful 3-15. Wednesday’s win lifted Riggleman’s Reds record to 31-31.

Surely, experience is a factor. The Reds are the fifth team Riggleman has managed either as interim or permanent — San Diego Padres (291 games), Chicago Cubs (793), Seattle Mariners (90) and Washington Nationals (312) before Cincinnati. He knows his way around a clubhouse.

He’s also benefited from improved starting pitching. After missing all of last season and the first two months of this season, Anthony DeSclafani has allowed just six earned runs over 17 innings in his last three starts. Matt Harvey, acquired from the Mets last month, has shown signs of relocating the stellar form he once exhibited in New York.

There’s been addition by subtraction, as well. After posting a 6.68 ERA through 12 starts, supposed-No. 1 starter Homer Bailey hasn’t pitched with the big club since May 28. A 7.40 ERA through five starts sent Brandon Finnegan back to AAA. He hasn’t pitched with the Reds since May 6.

Roasted over open flames in what has been a slow rebuild, Dick Williams has made some smart moves, of late. Now the head of baseball operations, Williams was responsible for claiming second baseman Scooter Gennett off waivers from Milwaukee last year, signing third baseman Eugenio Suarez to a long-term deal this year and trading catcher Devin Mesoraco, stuck behind Tucker Barnhart, for Harvey.

Gennett and Suarez have been swinging some serious wood. Gennett is hitting .336 with 13 homers and 53 RBI. Suarez is hitting .301 with 16 homers and 58 RBI. Barnhart, who signed a four-year, $16 million deal in September, has solidified the catching spot while batting .263.

riggleman.jpg
Jim Riggleman is 31-31 since taking over as interim manager of the Reds. Cincinnati has won 12 of its last 15 games. John Minchillo AP

It would be a mistake for Williams to jump the gun with Riggleman, however. When Price was fired, the Reds said they planned to conduct an extensive search with the goal of naming a new manager after the season. Williams recently told the Cincinnati Enquirer that process has not yet begun, but that the club had plenty of time in the second half to vet potential candidates.

After all, it’s a long season. July baseball doesn’t begin until Sunday. There are three long months to go. The red-hot Reds of June could cool considerably in the dog days of August, you never know.

That doesn’t mean the Reds shouldn’t consider Riggleman. Right now, he deserves to be at the top of Williams’ list. Five of Cincinnati’s last seven wins have been in come-from-behind fashion. Before Wednesday’s rally, the Reds scored seven runs in the seventh inning last Sunday to turn a 6-1 deficit into an 8-6 win and a four-game sweep of the Cubs.

Nor should age be a factor. Riggleman will be 66 before next season. Big deal. In 1999, the Reds won 96 games with a 68-year-old manager named Jack McKeon. Four years later, McKeon managed the Florida Marlins to a World Series title. McKeon did so at age 73.

If these Reds can continue to play the way they have over the past two months for their interim skipper, then by all means rip off the interim label and make Jim Riggleman the man.

Just not yet.

Reds' next series

  • Thursday, 7:10 p.m. vs. Milwaukee
  • Friday, 7:10 p.m. vs. Milwaukee
  • Saturday, 4:10 p.m. vs. Milwaukee
  • Sunday, 1:10 p.m. vs. Milwaukee
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