Price to return as Reds' manager next season
Skipper has one year remaining on contract; club to begin evaluating coaching staff
PITTSBURGH -- Reds manager Bryan Price will return to the club next season, general manager Walt Jocketty announced Saturday.
Price has one year remaining on the three-year contract he signed following the 2013 season, when he was promoted from pitching coach to replace Dusty Baker. Speculation about Price's future had loomed throughout the season as Cincinnati struggled. The Reds snapped a 13-game losing streak with Saturday night's 3-1 win over the Pirates to improve to 64-97.
"Just to put this to rest, Bryan is coming back as the Reds' manager in 2016," Jocketty said. "We are going to discuss the coaching staff over the next couple of weeks, and we'll make an announcement about that in two to three weeks."
The decision, Jocketty said, was made a few days ago with Reds CEO Bob Castellini.
Price, 53, did not feel relieved but was pleased to have his future decided.
"I want to be here to see this through," said Price, who has a 139-183 record in two seasons. "I don't want to be the guy that comes in and has two seasons where we're a bottom-of-the-division team and move on to doing something else in my life. I really don't want to do that. Walt didn't hire me to do that, and neither did Mr. Castellini.
"The challenges are a little different now than we saw in the beginning of 2015, and I want to be here to be a part of the change, the improvement and get ourselves back on top of the division. I'm very appreciative that Walt and Mr. Castellini have the faith in me to be a part of the turnaround."
This season will be the Reds' first last-place finish since 1983. How it came to this was the result of many factors. Besides watching the division-rival Cardinals, Pirates and Cubs surge ahead and emerge with postseason berths, Cincinnati dealt with injuries and lost key players like pitcher Homer Bailey, catcher Devin Mesoraco and shortstop Zack Cozart for the bulk of the season.
In his two seasons as manager, Price has used his projected regular lineup only 17 times.
Once out of contention, the Reds traded top starting pitchers Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake in late July, and an all-rookie rotation was pressed into service.
"We made great strides with these last two months and all these rookies, but it's been a painful ride," Price said. "Right now we're identifying who we feel is ready to be here. Some of these guys are here out of necessity, not necessarily because they pitched at a terribly high success rate in the Minor Leagues. But we needed to have them here to finish out the season. This also allows us to somewhat define, loosely at least, who are our best leading candidates for the rotation next year and who may be better pieces for our bullpen."
When the season ends Sunday, nine different rookie pitchers will have started 110 games, including the last 64 in a row.
"When we hired Bryan two years ago, we felt that he was the right guy for trying to bring this club going forward, and we still believe that," Jocketty said. "We had a lot of unfortunate things happen this year -- injuries, and at the Trade Deadline we made strong business decisions to make some trades that obviously depleted our roster and made it difficult to win games. ... In my opinion -- and Bob feels the same way -- this club has continued to play hard and play as well as we can under Bryan's leadership. We feel it will continue."
There were moments when Price was embroiled in controversy this season. In April, he engaged in an expletive-filled tirade at a Reds beat reporter that went viral across social media. In May, during a series in Cleveland, he was ejected before a game even started and apologized to Reds fans for the team's poor play after another.
In August, left fielder Marlon Byrd clashed with bench coach Jay Bell because he wanted to enter a game to pinch-hit. The clubhouse was closed to reporters for 30 minutes after the game, and Byrd was traded the following day to the Giants.
Reds third baseman Todd Frazier, who emerged as one of the team's leaders, praised the decision for Price to stay.
"It's great, because sometimes you hear the rumors and speculation going around, you see it on TV. I'm glad to have our manager back, it's exciting," Frazier said. "He's a good manager, he works well with the guys, he's known us for a while. He understands us.
"Next year we're going to have everyone healthy -- knock on wood -- and hopefully we can keep a steady lineup and not really worry about injuries or anything else. I think he understands us a lot more than a new manager would."
Price was not given a contract extension, meaning he will be entering 2016 in the final year of his deal.
"As much as I have only two years of managerial experience, I've been in the Major League game for a long time, and I'm not chasing the next year of the contract," Price said. "I'll never be that way. I want to be here because I deserve to be here and that I earn that opportunity and the trust from the people that I work for. I don't need anything. I just need the opportunity to manage the club and help in the turnaround."
While the decision on Price is done, the focus will turn to the coaching staff and on-field product. There are question marks in the rotation; the bullpen will need to be overhauled and there are shortcomings in the lineup that will need to be addressed.
"Bryan's strength is pitching, and as we develop these young starters and have a better idea of who can start next year and who we feel will pitch out of the bullpen, then we'll go from there," Jocketty said. "We've looked at a lot of things already, there's a lot of things we'll work on, but that's what we're going to be doing over the next couple of months. A lot of it is strategic planning."