Casali: 'So many great memories' with Reds

May 19th, 2021

Over the past several seasons, whenever and entered the confines of Great American Ball Park, they did so as members of the Reds. On Monday, the two finally returned to their old stomping grounds, now donning the label of the opposition.

“Walking into this place, there was definitely -- a tear was trying to creep up in there, because I just have so many great memories here,” Casali said.

Casali and DeSclafani, who both spent a number of years with the Reds, made their first return to Great American Ball Park since signing with the Giants this past offseason. Suffice it to say, the memories are plentiful.

The two have had an opportunity to indulge in some familiar delicacies since touching down in Cincinnati. Casali made a stop to Penn Station East Coast Subs, which he described as “scrumptious.” DeSclafani and his fellow rotation-mates opted for a more high-end experience, dining at the highly rated Italian restaurant Sotto.

“They loved it last night,” DeSclafani said. “It’s also one of my favorite meals, too. It was good to get back there.”

Casali and DeSclafani arrived in Cincinnati by similar means, both having been traded to the Reds from a Florida-based team. For DeSclafani, that team was the Marlins, who traded him to the Reds following a rocky rookie season in 2014. It was in Cincinnati where he blossomed.

“I was joking with my wife and a few of the guys, just saying I feel like I almost never left,” DeSclafani said. “I haven’t been in San Fran for too long and rolling back into town here in Cincinnati, I almost felt like I never left.”

For Casali, the Reds gave him “a second chance at life in the big leagues.” In 2017, he played just nine games with the Rays after playing 84 games the year prior. It was the precursor to the most volatile stretch of Casali’s big league career.

During the 2017-18 offseason, Casali signed Minor League deals with the Angels and Rangers, but he was released by both clubs prior to the season. The Rays then signed him to a Minor League deal, but he was traded during the '18 season to Cincinnati, where he finally found stability and re-established his value.

“They didn’t just pass through here,” said manager David Bell, who managed Casali and DeSclafani in 2019 and '20. “They had substantial time here. I know Cincinnati is really important to them, so I’m sure it means a lot to them. It will be great for us to see them again.”

On Tuesday night, DeSclafani and Casali finally faced some of their old teammates -- such as Jesse Winker, Nick Castellanos, Eugenio Suárez and Tucker Barnhart, among others. DeSclafani delivered a seven-inning performance in the Giants' 4-2 win, and the only run he allowed was a solo shot to Winker in the first frame. Casali went 0-for-3 with a walk and just missed a homer in the sixth inning.

The right-hander's start wasn’t his first time pitching in Cincinnati as the opponent -- he made a relief appearance at Great American Ball Park with the Marlins in 2014 -- but it was certainly the most meaningful.

Reunion aside, the matchup was an entertaining affair, pitting one of the league’s best starting pitchers against one of the league’s best offenses. Following play on Tuesday, the Reds had the fifth-best wRC+ in baseball (106) and are only one of six teams to score at least 200 runs.

DeSclafani has been at the top of his game in his own right. In nine starts this season, DeSclafani owns a 2.03 ERA across 53 1/3 innings, pitching some of the best ball of his career.

“It’s for sure gonna be weird. It’s also going to be fun,” DeSclafani said on Monday. “I look forward to tomorrow night and being back on the mound here at Great American and facing some of those guys. There was a lot of good relationships made here over the last six years, and there’s no question it’s going to be extremely weird, but I look forward to competing.”