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Persistence pays for O'Grady; Bell recalls 9/11

@DKramer_
September 11, 2019

SEATTLE -- Brian O'Grady's first Major League homer in Tuesday’s 4-3 loss to the Mariners at T-Mobile Park had him in line to be the night’s hero, but after Amir Garrett’s blown save in the eighth, O’Grady instead took solace in his individual milestone. The 426-foot blast extended what’s been

SEATTLE -- Brian O'Grady's first Major League homer in Tuesday’s 4-3 loss to the Mariners at T-Mobile Park had him in line to be the night’s hero, but after Amir Garrett’s blown save in the eighth, O’Grady instead took solace in his individual milestone.

The 426-foot blast extended what’s been a breakout year for the journeyman Minor Leaguer-turned-Reds rookie. Including his 112 games at Triple-A Louisville, O’Grady has crushed 29 homers -- more than double his previous career high of 14 set last season -- after hitting 34 total during his first four pro seasons.

The primary source of his surge is simply a more polished swing, doctored by a Hall of Famer and sustained by the Reds’ development staff. In April 2017, when O’Grady was hitting .166 for Double-A Pensacola and spiraling his way out of the game, Barry Larkin and Milt Thompson identified that O’Grady could benefit from adding a leg kick and opening his hips to make the inside part of the zone less susceptible against his left-handed swing.

“Ever since then, that's been the ground mark with tiny tweaks here and there,” O’Grady said. “I don't really stride as close as I would then. That's still kind of the thought, but for whatever reason, that keeps me more in direct line with the ball and be able to use the whole field and drive the ball better.”

The finished product has him earning Major League at-bats for a club that’s out of contention and utilizing September, in part, to determine who might earn reps heading into next spring. In his third stint with the Reds as a September callup, he’s 4-for-9 with two walks, four strikeouts, a triple and the homer while contributing off the bench.

“It's the Major Leagues, but it's not that much different from what he did in Triple-A. But what he did in Triple-A was really impressive,” Reds manager David Bell said. “He's worked really hard to turn himself into a big league player. We're just trying to see him as much as possible.”

No progression for injured Reds

Center fielder Nick Senzel expressed frustration Wednesday, revealing that his right shoulder impingement hasn’t responded positively to the treatment he’s been receiving since being scratched from the Sept. 4 game with the injury. Bell was hopeful that Senzel could return to a hitting role soon, but the manager said that Senzel’s status has been downgraded.

“Anything I've been trying to do, throwing or hitting, it just hasn't felt right, so I don't know,” Senzel said. “We'll just keep going day by day.”

Left-handed starter Alex Wood (lower back strain) and outfielder Jesse Winker (cervical strain) also have not progressed as the Reds have hoped.

“I would say they're all different, unique situations. Different injuries,” Bell said. “But at this point, when you look at how many games we have left, you're just not sure if you're going to get them back.”

Bell remembers 9/11 in NYC

Bell, who played for the Mariners in 2001, vividly recalled the club’s American League Championship Series against the Yankees, who defeated Seattle in its record 116-win season to advance to that year’s World Series. Just six weeks removed from the Sept. 11 attacks, Bell’s Mariners played three games in as many days at old Yankee Stadium that have been described as some of the most emotional in the Majors’ recent memory.

“Of course, you want to win, and we had a great team and all of that, but it just seemed somewhat fateful for [the Yankees],” Bell said. “It was just such an emotional time being in New York during that time. It was a little uncomfortable being there, honestly, but at the same time, you wanted to do everything you could to support. But everything that baseball did and being around the Yankees in New York during that time, it was really powerful. So those are kind of the main memories that I have as we were kind of trying to have a normal existence in a time of turmoil and tragedy.”

Daniel Kramer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Seattle. Follow him on Twitter at @DKramer_.