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Reflecting on first year, Reds' Price talks improvements

Manager says he could take more risks in '15, isn't worried about lineup at this early juncture

SAN DIEGO -- Once October came and the Reds had nowhere to go but home for the offseason, there was plenty of time for manager Bryan Price to reflect about his first season on the job.

There was certainly plenty of room for improvement, and that did not exclude Price. He fully realizes he needed to learn from this past season and make his own adjustments.

"How do you get out of your own way sometimes in a one-run game?" Price joked Monday when asked during the Winter Meetings what he learned about himself on the job in 2014.

At 22-38, the Reds led the Major Leagues in one-run losses this past season. Price admitted there were times he made decisions that defied what his original instincts told him. He realized he occasionally became reluctant in offensive situations where he later wished he was more aggressive. Next season, he might be inclined to take more risks, especially in one-run games.

"I didn't have a lot of times last year where I reflected like I really felt like I made a catastrophic mistake, a game-changing mistake," Price said. "Certainly there's times where something doesn't work out, and you wish you would have done something different.

"I have to trust my gut and my instinct to make an endgame decision. I think there are times I want to put faith in the player to get a hit, as opposed to being more creative as a manager to create an offensive opportunity. I want the players to know I have faith in them. But at the same time, I think I needed to be a little bit more creative than I was."

Cincinnati, which finished in fourth place in the National League Central, missed several key players that were on the disabled list -- including Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Mat Latos, Homer Bailey and Jay Bruce.

"It was disappointing. And it would have been easy and comfortable to fall back on the 2014 DL," Price said. "That being said, I still felt -- and I said it all year -- that we had ... enough talent on the team to win more than we did. Maybe we weren't the best team in the division. Maybe we weren't better than the three teams that finished ahead of us, but we were better than 76-86. I don't think we were a sub-.500 club, even with the injuries. And those are the things that beg the question, 'What could we have done differently, or what could I have done differently as a manager?'"

Looking ahead to 2015, the Reds still have unsettled issues. The team lacks an everyday left fielder and wants to add depth to its bullpen. There is a chance the club could move one of its starting pitchers to get the hitter it wants. Four rotation members -- Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Mike Leake and Alfredo Simon -- can become free agents after the upcoming season.

Price isn't worried about not having a complete lineup yet.

"I'm not, only because we need to be ready by Opening Day of 2015. So I can be patient," Price said. "I don't think it's my nature to get worked up about things, questions that don't need to be answered at this moment. Anybody would like to know what their team is going to look like right now. Very few do, if any, know what their club is going to look like for next year. We have our challenges. I'm comfortable with letting it kind of move along at the pace it's going right now."

Reds general manager Walt Jocketty has made it clear he would prefer to add a left fielder that can bring a higher on-base percentage to the lineup. The team had a .296 on-base percentage in 2014, and a .292 OBP from speedy leadoff hitter Billy Hamilton.

Price was asked if a left fielder with a higher OBP was added, could it mean that Hamilton is moved down from the top of the order. It wasn't ruled out.

"I think that's a question I'd look at more when that time comes," Price replied. "I think as we figured out over the course of last year is that we're going to try to put the most functional team on the field and get away from getting concerned about hurt feelings if somebody is not hitting in a spot or order that they prefer. So if we were a better club with somebody else leading off, we would lead off with somebody else."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon.
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